As a young boy and a big Roald Dahl fan, my dream was to be locked in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. As a 27-year-old man I found myself in a grown-up version of that dream – The Shoe Room. Only this world of wonderment wasn’t full of sweets, it was full of English-made bespoke shoes.
Richard Smith (aka the Shoe Smith) asked “Right then, what size are ya?”
“I take a ten.”
“Hmmm” he sized up my battered adidas gazelles and said “you’ll take an eight and a half.”
Confident I took a ten and not wanting to cause offence I nodded my head politely, as he handed me a grey suede Chelsea boot. Positioning myself on the luxurious caramel leather chair using a gold-handed shoe horn, I slipped the left boot on with ease, as it hugged my foot and ankle. The support was incredible, I have never felt a more comfy fit of shoe in my life.
“Told you, you were an eight and a half, it all depends on the individuals size and foot shape, and what shoe it is. Guaranteed we are definitely not the same size in every shoe.” And sure enough, his words rang true, I tried on several different pairs and he instructed the size every time. His knowledge and attention to the individual’s shoe structure and manufacture was remarkable. Richard and Michelle Smith were previously business partners at Shoehealer for eleven years and built up a wealth of industry knowledge and fans (having some customers travelling half the country not just to purchase their much revered and sought after shoes, but for the level of honest customer service.) Richard pours me a whisky and reassures: “We’re not going to be the best shoe shop in the North, we’re going to be the best shoe shop in England.”
My eyes dart from shoe to shoe, unable to determine which I liked the most, all beautifully situated under their brand and showcased perfectly. Richard and Michelle told me all about the English factories – Barkers, Loake, and Trickers who still operate in the same way they always have – steeped in craftsmanship and tradition. The canvas behind the front till shows how the Trickers factory which hasn’t changed since the 1940’s. The name The Shoe Room originated from a room called the “Shoe Room” housed in every English shoe factory.
I slip off the best looking and comfiest shoes I’ve ever worn and return to my sorry pair of trainers, Richard recounts being in Edinburgh for a pop-up shop and a man approaching him to ask how much a pair of Trickers were selling for these days. When Richard responded, the man didn’t bat an eyelid and said: “That sounds about right, I bought my Trickers 35 years ago and it cost me a weeks wages. My family and friends thought I’d gone mad!” Richard asked how his Trickers were holding up today, the man replied, “they still only cost a weeks wages.”
The Shoe Room launch their 8, Priory Walk store this Thursday from 4pm with drinks and canapés. Free entry and all are welcome! On the night Richard and Michelle will be raffling off a Tricker’s Valet Box (RRP £350) on the night where all proceeds will go to a brain cancer charity.
Click HERE for their Facebook page, and HERE to check out their Instagram. Liking either will put you in with a chance to win a Barker leather belt worth £95. Get liking, we’ll announce the winner tomorrow night.
The Shoe Room, 8 Priory Walk, Doncaster, DN1 1TS