Saturday, May 31, 2008
LOCAL TALENT SHOWCASE: An Interview with Audie Gipson, Owner of 5000 Shoes & More
When I visited this hidden gem, I was pleasantly surprised at how well stocked it was. Beautiful shoes and boots occupied every corner of the establishment, meticulously placed in the windows and on pedestals, neatly lining wall-mounted shelves. Fresh, funky handbags, belts, hats and other unique accessories stylishly displayed behind a showcase filled with even more "must-have" accessories. Hence the name, "5000 shoes & more..."
From the street, you are greeted with an unassuming storefront--nothing spectacular, no blinking lights, bells, or whistles. You won't find any extravagant overhead here, no, ma'am, no, sir. Instead, what you find is high quality, innovative and downright off the hook shoes for the urban sophisticated woman with discriminating taste. You want something that won't be repeated as you walk down the street, or sashay into that function? Go to 5000 shoes & more, located on the Westside of Detroit at 18416 Grand River Ave at Southfield Fwy.
While urban in flavor, the key element to this business is style, style, and more style. And did I mention, style? A real shoe maven is not lost on the European sophistication exuding from the store's interior, and one gets the feeling that a Fa'shoe'nista would be just as comfortable sporting these kicks walking the streets of Paris as she would Greektown in downtown Detroit.
Because I'm nosey and because I think that everybody should know what I know, I wanted to get more information about this jewel in the city. So I contacted one of the owners and was graciously allowed to come to the store, take pictures of shoes and talk about the origin of the business. This interview is with owner and buyer, Audie Gipson.
Fa'shoe'nista: So, give us a little history behind this jewel in the city. How did you come up with the name 5000 Shoes & More…?
Audie: The name 5000 Shoes and more originated from my name, Audie, like the car, Audi 5000. People always asked me about my choice in shoes so along came 5000's Shoes. I dropped the 's, replaced it with "and More," and added accessories.
Fa'shoe'nista: Like most businesses in urban communities, I heard about you by word of mouth. One of my co-workers had on a lovely pair of boots and I asked her where she purchased them. How successful has word of mouth been as a form of advertisement? Do you use other forms of advertising and marketing?
Audie: Word of mouth works and doesn't work sometimes. The giving clients, like the lady in your office, pass the store info along and are willing to share us with the rest of the world. However, my spoiled clients want to keep the "one of a kind" look to themselves.
Fa'shoe'nista: 5000 Shoes & More… is a family owned business. Who exactly are the owners and how many are there? How long have you been in business?
Audie: I am the owner and buyer, my father, James Gipson, is the CEO of our corporation, Gippes Enterprise, and my sister, Sharay Gipson, is COO. My mother, Teresia Gipson, is the store designer. We have been in business for 9 years and have been at this location for 8 years.
Fa'shoe'nista: Some people hold the philosophy of never going into business with family and/or friends. Yet there are many businesses that are run by generations of family members, mom and pop, siblings, and the like. How well do you, the proprietors, get along? What is the key to your success working together?
Audie: We are a very close knit family and are used to working together. My father has always owned his own business and the 7 children were always the employees. We use the philosophy of most other nationalities: to support family first and help out whenever needed.
Fa'shoe'nista: When I visited the store, I spoke with Latrice, or “Tricie,” (spelling?) one of the Gipson sisters, who told me the business started with home parties. How does that compare with running a brick & mortar business and what contributed to your decision to open the store?
Audie: Latrice Farris is our godsister. The shoe parties helped to build clientele and minimize overhead. I still do private and public shoe parties and fashion shows at the Detroit location. The greatest contribution of a brick and mortar is having a home base of operations. No matter where I am, the shoes and accessories are always available.
Fa'shoe'nista: Whenever anyone talks about opening a business the buzz word is LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. What made you decide to become a neighborhood store as opposed to doing the mall thing? Do you get a lot of business from the locals or from those outside of the area? Is it a combination of both?
Audie: I might have considered a mall location had there been one in Detroit. Choosing to be a boutique came about with the reputation Detroit has for it's one of a kind style. My family and I are really big on Detroit. We feel Detroit gets less praise than what it deserves, being the first to start a lot of trends all over the world. The Rosedale Park community, where the store is located, is very supportive. I lived my high school years and early twenties there; however, I have really branched out to women outside of Detroit and so I have a clientele from everywhere.
Fa'shoe'nista: You carry mostly Italian brands, high quality shoes for what I at least consider a reasonable price. Still, your prices may be considered high-end for some. Has the depressed economy affected your business?
Audie: No, my customers appreciate quality. We fit the woman that will buy once at a medium to high price point for a shoe or accessory that will last forever, as opposed to buying cheaper shoes of a lesser quality several times.
Fa'shoe'nista: What is your price range and how is it determined?
Audie: The prices in the summer range from $20-$150.00 and up to $250 in the winter. The prices are determined by what we pay wholesale or suggested retail prices positioned by the designer. Sometimes, we will lower the price below what we paid if a shoe or boot has been in the store for several seasons no matter who the designer is.
Fa'shoe'nista: You carry many one-of-a kind styles. Where do your shoes come from, mainly? Do you have a certain supplier or merchandise house where you get your beautiful styles, or do you deal with individual designers?
Audie: Most of our shoes come from different countries such as Spain or Brazil, and of course Italy. We tend to choose designers that are new and different.
Fa'shoe'nista: The obsession women have with shoes doesn’t seem to be fading, even though we’re in somewhat of a recession. Recession, or no recession, women seem to always find the money to purchase their favorite pair of floor knockers (my Fa’Shoe’Nista term for shoes). Why do you think that is?
Audie: Women are the #1 consumer all over the world. The retail industry starts to cater to females at a very early age, especially in the fashion industry.
Fa'shoe'nista: What advice would you give to the growing number of entrepreneurs who are trying to break into fashion oriented businesses? What should they do to make themselves stand out from the rest?
Audie: The best advice I can give from experience is to know your product inside and out. Then learn your target market. Also, do what you love and what you've dreamed of doing, not what simply looks good from the outside looking in.
Again, thank you so much, Ms. Gipson for your time and consideration in this matter. And thank you for furthering the cause of Glamour!
5000 Shoes & More - firstname.lastname@example.org