The Secret Shoe Box: West Street’s best kept secret
Amble along West Street on any given afternoon and, just for a second, drop it down a gear or two and take in your surroundings. Sandwiched between an offy and a non-descript West Street bar, is Cobblers and Keys.
A discreet set of stairs takes you up to the intimate but welcoming surroundings of the Secret Shoe Box. Oozing with character and charm, and that very pleasant smell of leather coming from the shelves which house an impressive collection of Loakes and Barkers shoes. Glen Hardy, an experienced shoe salesman, is changing the display in the window. “I’m my own window display!”
Glen has worked in this line of work for the best part of two decades, with 20 years under his belt at the old Bootmaker on Pinstone Street. “Nick from Cobblers and Keys asked me to come and check out the Loakes collection for a few hours and I never left. I like a non-pressure sales environment here – we’ve had customers come over from Bootmaker to the Secret Shoe Box just because of that. Now the secret’s getting out!”
The Secret Shoe Box has a huge collection of Loakes shoes, Barkers shoes and a ladies section, brought in recently due to high demand. You could be forgiven for thinking a trade such as this may have been left behind along with other British high street mainstays. Not if Glen has anything to do with it. “You know, if I had my own section at John Lewis and Debenhams I’d absolutely blow them away. I would! We’ve got this loyalty card, right. You get 10% off after the first purchase, then after six pairs the value spent is divided by six, giving you a free pair to that value! Who else is doing that in Sheffield?!”
Working alongside Glen is Howard Nota who handles repairs at the Secret Shoe Box. “Howard spent five years training. He is a craftsman. If the shoe can’t be repaired, then he’s honest enough to say so. We’re a one stop shop for shoes. I’ve had customers come in to see Howard about repairing their shoes and walked out with a brand new pair of Loakes on – the ideal scenario!”
A common theme of Glen’s zest and vision for the business is loyalty to customers and treating them right. Trying on some Loakes? Grab a coffee or tea or, if you’re really into the 1920s vibe, opt for a tumbler of Scotch whisky. “You treat them well and the customers will come back it’s as simple as that. It’s all about loyalty and integrity – this is why the high street is dying! You need to build a reputation and look after your customers and they will come back, there’s no doubt about that. Especially in a place like Sheffield, it really is a big village and everyone knows each other!”
“Shopping used to be fun – let’s get that back!”