Katherine Williams of Lawrenceburg has a restaurant job that pays her bills, but she finds that shoes — really good ones, that support a lot of walking — can be expensive.
So she has come to Frankfort's The Shoe Exchange to find good walking shoes that are either new or reconditioned to appear almost new.
The Shoe Exchange, opened in April, is a store that buys, sells, trades and spiffs up shoes.
"It's awesome," Williams said. "You can come in and get a pair of reliable shoes without having to spend half a paycheck on them."
The buys can be stunning: A pair of Salvatore Ferragamo red pumps that retail for more than $400 new will be sold, after reconditioning, for $30. A pair of bright-blue fabric women's shoes with painted striped heels goes for $16.99. A pair of casual flats with the University of Kentucky logo on toe and heel awaits a shoe-savvy Cats fan.
The store also stocks various quantities of new and deeply discounted shoes, including athletic shoes. One day the store might even offer hand-painted shoes, said owner Gail Silverman, who spend as much as two hours to rehabilitate a pair of shoes. That includes putting them in a device that destroys bacteria and odor, cleaning and painting them, and picking out each particle of grit in the sole.
Betty Hatton of Lawrenceburg bought a pair of ivory suede Skechers slip-ons with straps for $9.99. Similar shoes retail for $58 on the Skechers website.
Pam Crowe of Lawrenceburg said she got a personal recommendation to visit the store.
"My cousin came down here and bought, like, six pairs for her little granddaughters," she said.
The clean white, green and purple store design was created by Silverman's son Justin, who also handles technology.
The store uses a Klenz — like an autoclave for shoes —to remove bacteria and odors from the shoes. From there, Silverman will shine and, if necessary, paint — yes, there is such a product as shoe paint — and detail the soles. Husband Eric Silverman is the "people person" on the sales floor.
If you like your own shoes and don't want to sell them, the store also has a deal for you: a full detail for $8.
The goal is to get a shoe that looks almost as good as new but at a substantial discount off the original price.
Gail Silverman likes the process of "re-new-itizing" shoes, a term she invented after the idea for the The Shoe Exchange came to her one night while sleeping: Transforming a pair from grubby to gorgeous might take several hours, but she enjoys the work. When selling exclusively new shoes, she had noticed cash-strapped customers fretting over prices.
She thought there must be a more economical, environmentally friendly way to do business.
The Silvermans, originally from the New Jersey shore area, started in the shoe business running a store selling new shoes in Lawrenceburg. They describe The Shoe Exchange as being to shoes what stores such as the franchise Plato's Closet — which sells lightly used youth-oriented fashion to teenagers and young adults — is to clothing.
Why start the store in Frankfort?
"We decided that Frankfort would be a great location, with all the state workers here," Eric Silverman said. "They have to wear dress shoes. Back-to-school has been very good, and Facebook has been very good to us."
IF YOU GO
The Shoe Exchange, 110 Brighton Park Blvd., Brighton Park Shopping Center, Frankfort, (502) 352-2902. On Facebook: The Shoe Exchange