One pair of red patent leather mary-janes carried my first steps into the well shod journey of my life with wonderful shoes. These little numbers were a gift from distant relatives visiting from Germany when I was just a little girl. I absolutely loved those shoes...so glossy like red nail polish. Naturally, I cried when mom had to take them away because I had outgrown them. I begged to have them back and promised to only put them on my “dollies” which in turn became “playing shoe store” and I loved it! Who knew that game and those shoes were the foreshadowing of the path my life would take.
Honestly, I cannot remember what prompted me to apply for a job in a local shoe store other than the fact that I wanted to go to college and needed a way to pay for it. What amazes me is that the boss-man was willing to hire an overly bubbly 19 year old girl with zero experience in the shoe world, a hectic school schedule and attempt to teach a new pup old shoe dog wisdom. So began my shoe and college educations which turned out to be mutually beneficial. I spent five years with Redwood Bootery; learning about customer service, running stock, understanding serious work boots (think logging and forestry) fitting children's shoes and selling comfort. Through the act of helping feet find comfort and happiness, I discovered a real joy in building relationships with customers, friends, family and co-workers. I was hooked on the thrill of mating the best pair of shoes to a given pair of feet. I appreciate all the people who put their soles in my hands and allowed me to help them with their shoes. I learned so much about life through my “shoe-stomers”. You would be amazed at what people will share when you take off their shoes and listen.
Naturally, there was more to learn and that desire took me to Bellingham, Washington to continue my academic career at Western Washington University where I received my Business degree focused in Entrepreneurial Studies. Of course, I immediately looked for a comfort-driven shoe store to work in and and I found myself explaining to the owner of Hilton's Shoes that his was the store I wanted to work in and surely my five years of shoe experience and outgoing personality should get my foot in the door. Fortunately, he was willing to take a chance and hire me. For over eight years we learned much from each other. Joe Hilton took me to the next level of shoe fitting and has an exceptional sense of how shoes will fit his customers. I really miss “geeking out” on shoes with Joe. We would take the shoes apart ooo-ing and aaahh-ing over the fiberglass shanks, rocker bottoms, roomy toe boxes, combination lasts, welted soles and top grain leathers. Joe really took me “inside” the world of shoes giving me more and better ways to help all the feet I would meet. Hilton's specializes in helping folks with orthoses, foot ailments and hard to fit feet. My knowledge of foot health, shapes and sizes grew dramatically. I forged relationships with local podiatrists to increase my ability to help their patients and my shoe-stomers. Living, learning, breathing and talking shoes and feet was what I was all about...and my awesome family, friends and teachers heard about it all the time. Putting my foot in my mouth was likely a comical relief for them every time.:)
After college, I got side tracked by the corporate world and while I learned valuable lessons, I missed my foothold in the shoe world. Finally, serendipity and a podiatrist I knew brought me back to my inevitable footpath. I became a medical assistant in that podiatrist's office and got another invaluable sole perspective. Nothing has been more compelling in my desire to help people have happy feet than meeting a ton of folks who don't. I became very aware of the foot problems caused by age, genetics, diabetes and poor fitting shoes. While I worked as a medical assistant I also brought my experience and passion for comfortable shoes to the practice by launching a diabetic shoe program for medicare patients. I partnered with the doctor in getting appropriate shoes and orthotic custom insoles to the patients in need. The relationship between the health of ones foot and ones choice of footwear was brought to light consistently.
In 2010, I left my position at the podiatry practice to take care of my father who was diagnosed with leukemia. We got more time than the doctors predicted and my year with Dad changed my life in challenging, difficult and often inspiring ways. I am beyond grateful for all the love and patience that surrounded us during that time. Dad often asked me “...what was I doing to make the world a better place and was I happy doing it...?”. During the times in my life that had me involved with shoes\feet my answer was always the same: “Dad! I am making the world a better place one pair of happier feet at a time and I am LOVING it!” That answer along with my Dad's entrepreneurial spirit and much support from my family and friends has brought me to this moment, this blog; emboldened by a new goal to make the world a better place MANY happier feet at a time. I thank all of you from the bottom of my sole/soul. It is because of you that I love what I do.
- Abigail Dagmar