The Cook, his Wife & her Shoes is a boutique women’s shoe store in Surry Hills which is unlike any other shoe store I have stepped into – that could be because I usually buy my comfortable Nikes online, or it could be because many of the heels available in this store are not available anywhere else in the world. With a private fitting locked in and the promise of a ‘comfortable heel’ I was intrigued – heels and I do not mix and I certainly was under no expectation of being able to walk in any of these beautiful creations.
During my fitting, whilst being served gourmet tea and eating chocolates, I chatted to Al and Regina, aka The Cook and his Wife, to find out more about the store and how the entire concept has grown into what it is today.
BYO: What were you doing before you decided to open the store.
Al: I was head chef at a prominent seafood restaurant in Potts point.
Regina: I had just left my job as General Manager of a restaurant.
BYO: What inspired you to make the decision to open the store and was that a hard decision or a spontaneous one?
Al: Reg has always had a passion for fashion and has always been complimented on her style wherever she goes. With her commitment to any task she does, it was a no brainer for me to support her 100% on opening the business. As soon as we decided to go for it everything fell into place quite quickly as if it was all meant to be.
Regina: This had been a dream of mine since I was 25 years old, and when I had left my most recent job I felt that as a woman of 41, I was ready to do something for myself. We started the process late 2011 and then like Al said everything started to fall into place so it went pretty quickly, we opened our doors in July 2012.
BYO: What’s been the most unexpected about starting a business that is as unique as yours?
Al: For me it’s been the overwhelming response from our ladies/clients as if they’ve been starved of good quality footwear and service in Sydney and how right Regina has been in her choices of shoes for the shop.
Regina: I agree with Alun - the response from our customers has been amazing. Seeing women so excited and happy with their shoes makes me feel all warm inside, it’s fantastic. Very rewarding
BYO: Tell me about the shoes – how did you select these brands? Were they your favourites already or did you research?
Al: I’m not allowed to choose the shoes!
Regina: Some brands I had to have because they were my favourites and I found it hard to get them here. Others I discovered through my research. I’m also always looking for new brands to introduce that are different (and amazing to wear of course). I believe our shoes should make a statement, make us feel feminine and of course be classic - so that is always what I look for. I also believe in quality and craftsmanship, so how the shoes are made is a very important factor for me when choosing brands. If they are not handmade they do not have a place in our boutique.
BYO: I’ve heard that some of the shoes in the store are not available anywhere else in the world – how is that possible?
Al: Well we stick to more boutique brands and also source brands that aren’t available here. Then there is the Chie Mihara brand which we can choose our own colours and leathers and that I love because I tend to choose things that are quite different to the norm and the ladies love them… We all want to have something different - that feels special to us so that is what we aim for.
BYO: I’ve heard that you (Regina) try on every pair of shoe before you order it for the store – why is that?
Regina: I wear high heels everyday so for me it is important that shoes fit and feel right and are also a pleasure to wear. There is nothing worse than sore feet. I wouldn’t be able to know this about the shoes I carry unless I try them on myself. If they are not right, they don’t make it in the mix! That way when I am selling them I’m confident on who they are right for, how they should look, fit and feel etc….
BYO: You offer private fittings to customers who want that one on one time with you. Do you find that customers respond well to this extra attention and do you charge extra for the ladies who want to book with Al?
Al: Well I think we should because it’s me, of course….
Regina: Our ladies love the idea of that personal service. Many of the women who come into our store don’t buy a lot of high heels so they appreciate the extra time and guidance when it comes to buying that perfect heel. This is the level of service we have always wanted to offer our customers as we feel that attention sometimes lacks in the service industry so no, we do not charge extra. Though after how the women respond to Alun I think we should maybe charge something Ha! Ha!
BYO: What advice would you give any woman who is going heel shopping – here or otherwise?
Al: Take your time! Don’t settle for the first pair you love - that first pair may not be comfortable in the long run.
Regina: My advice would be to decide what the shoes are purposed for (night out or everyday etc) then choose accordingly. Make sure that your shoes fit well (not too small but also not too big) your foot should fill the shoe, and make sure that you feel confident and fabulous wearing them. There is nothing worse than seeing a woman who doesn’t confidently walk in her heels.
After my fitting I leave the store with two new pairs of shoes – both Chie Mihara’s and both a firm testament that I was wrong in my assertion that all heels were created by the devil. In fact, these are comfortable, I don’t wobble all over the place and they’re the cutest things I’ve had on my feet for years. Regina explained to me during the fitting that the style of heel, the type of platform and even the way the shoe has been made will affect the wearability of the shoe.
I am now converted and my Nikes will be moved to the back of the wardrobe and brought out for special occasions… heels are now my every day shoe.
The Cook, his Wife & her Shoes are happy to offer private fittings to all Backyard Opera readers – simply call the store on (02) 9319 1587 and let them know you’d like to book in to find your perfect heel.