After conquering my little of corner of the shoe market, (and by corner, I literally mean the corner of a post-it note) I might have gotten ambitious.
And ambition? It’s a funny thing. It lead me to be in a seedy neighborhood at 8:30 a.m. Saturday morning, looking to buy some black market rubber.
Let me back up.
Now that my Etsy store is up and running, I seem to be having a modicum of success in custom orders. One such custom order was from a lovely woman looking for some heavy-duty rubber soles added to her shoes. Now, I’m always up for a challenge- so when she asked, my first thoughts were “Why not? How hard can it be to find rubber soling? I have a working computer with an internet connection, right?”
Turns out it’s a bit more difficult than I expected. Turns out that they (“they” being the shoe industrial complexman) don’t like to sell small sheets of shoe rubber to the average consumer. If you need a $500 roll of shoe rubber? And you don’t mind it coming from some website that is half in Chinese? And it taking about 6 weeks for delivery? Then sure! Happy to help.
But a 2’x2′ square? By next week? No! None for you.
But! After more searching than I am willing to admit, I was able to track down an online shoe supply vendor that allowed me to order on their site. So I ordered….and waited, and waited and waited…with no response from them. Finally I follow up with an email- and they promptly tell me that what I ordered MAY be on backorder, but please let them check for me. Um…MAY? What does that mean? And, they have to check? Wha?
Again…no email for days. And I’m starting to get a little desperate as I still have to figure out how to add the soles of the shoes to the actual shoes…
So- picture me at Friday night- trying to find a way to get rubber sheeting that might, JUST MIGHT, work as a shoe sole.
Can you say epic fail?
I did stumble upon a shoe repair shop listing for some of my husband’s favorite shoes though- which got me thinking…if they repair shoes- they will most likely have rubber soling to do that! The shops didn’t have websites though, so I would have to do this old school style.
Yes, I’m freely admitting to the world that it took about two weeks to come to that brilliant conclusion. Just call me Sherlock.
So- bright and early Saturday had me tracking down a nearby shoe repair shop. My best hope was that the owner would be unable to resist my girlish charms and my impassioned plea to sell me some rubber soling. And, I don’t know this for sure, but I kind of doubt they can just sell their shoe repair supplies to any Tom, Dick or Jane that walks in off the street. But, I was going to try.
The shop is located in kind of seedy neighborhood- which did give me pause- but I decided that it’s unlikely that any thugs would be awake at 8:30 on a Saturday morning. I’ve heard that thugs enjoy the nightlife.
The shop is tiny- and old-fashioned. The cash register is ancient- and they definitely have not heard about the internet yet- but it’s packed with shoe orders with the names of the owners written neatly on little tags. I take that as a good sign and ring the bell. And ring the bell. And shout hello…but nothing.
For a few seconds I worried that the owner had been shot down in a robbery and I’d be that person on Law and Order that comes across the body accidently- when a little old man with bushy eyebrows peeks his head around a corner and sees me. His little grandmotherly wife follows on his heels. I explain my problem and he proceeds to bustle around the store pulling out different soling material.
We discuss what I’m looking for- and I decide then to broach buying the material- and ask him if he’d be willing to sell some of the soling to me. He hems and haws about how it’s been partially used, and he wouldn’t know what to charge…
My grandfather was many things- including a used-car salesman. He had a policy of never listing a price first. I think the shop owner must have been his long-lost brother.
“Well- what do you think would be a fair price?”
“Well- I don’t know…”
“Well- how much was the original size?”
“Well- I can’t recall right now because we get billed at the end of the month in one big batch.”
“Hmmm…I’d be willing to buy it from you- what do you think it’s worth?”
“Well- I’ve cut some pieces out, so I don’t know what I would charge you…”
I could feel him getting closer though- and knew from the websites I had been looking at what the piece was roughly worth. I also knew that I might have to keep waiting for the flakes online if I passed- so against my grandfather’s advice- I name a price.
The man squinted up at me- and then nodded. “That sounds fair.”
Once the money was exchanged, he was suddenly my best friend. “I have another shipment coming in Tuesday- of thinner rubber…would that work for you? I can charge you what they charge me off of the invoice- how’s that sound? You can come to me for any other materials you might need.”
I realize the soling cost me a bit more than what I could purchase off the internet- but I got a guy on the inside now.