By Josie Koler
Katrina Pavlov, blew in and tore through the specialty shoe store on Duval similar to a Cat 5.
“My name is just like the hurricane. I’m a lawyer and I practice in California and DC,” she said in a whirlwind to the Weekly.
She was in search of some new Mephistos, and her strategic search occurred as quickly as a storm surge hitting the Atlantic Boulevard.
“These are sensational! They have the best elevation, are practical, as well as gorgeous. The ones I was wearing were not the alligator design. I go in the water with my old ones and I go to gallery openings with my new ones!”
Pavlov is one of thousands who’ve walked into The Sole Man on Duval since the shop opened its doors in 2005. Carrying Mephistos, FitFlop, Danskos, Ugg, and other top-of-the-line brands, owner John Brandolino has the pat down on what’s perfect for the peds; especially, those vacationers who come unprepared for the pedestrian lifestyle.
[pullquote]“People come in and say you have one of the nicest stores on the island. They appreciate the quality of merchandise and service. I have the double-whammy.” – The Sole Man, John Brandolino[/pullquote]
“I cater to people who haven’t brought the right shoes in their suitcase. We’re in a walking town, and they’ve been out all day, and come in and say, ‘My feet hurt!’ They’re wearing shoes and sandals from Walmart, Target, and Old Navy. I think, ‘Your feet must be killing you.’ They come in my store for a more comfortable, contoured shoe or sandal.”
Like Pavlov, they often return.
“I wear Jackie Kennedy size shoes, 9.5, and I admit, this is the best store in Florida, I’ve done my research. Plus, I’m a Mephisto fan!”
The Sole Man started as an exclusive Mephisto Store, and when the owner, Rosemary Armstrong, wanted to move back to the mainland, she sold to Brandolino because the former Birckenstock representative had sold his soul to feed an undying fetish for quality footwear. His aim, after wearing orthotics as a young boy, was defined to enhance the quality of life for every customer. Six years ago this week, Brandolino re-opened under The Sole Man company name and John found his calling selling the finest shoes from all over the world.
“A groom to be getting married in Key West comes into my store and his fiancé could not get out of bed because her feet were so blistered from walking in the wrong shoes.
She sent him on a quest to get her a pair of Keds.
I said to him, ‘Take this sandal, (the shoe had a surgical nylon upper so there wasn’t anything to cause blisters). Take these home, try these on her feet. You can come back and pay me if they work. He came back the next day and paid. They were Arcopedico.”
“The locals come in just to see what’s new. I’m always changing the inventory and bringing in new shoes and sandals. Right now, I have Vibram, the barefoot running shoe with five-fingers. This is the latest phenomenon which is barefoot running or walking. This “shoe” addresses the muscles of your feet the traditional running shoe has not addressed.”
For those who don’t prefer the five-toes, Merrell’s New Barefoot is offered for adventurers to wear in the water, on land and in the sand.
Storage space is also stacked with boxes of Salpy, a line named for the California creator who brought style to a handcrafted, hand-carved wood shoe. Danskos, reinforced with a steel toe, adorn the back wall with clog and sandal styles. This service-industry shoe is utopian for nurses, teachers, chefs, or for dancing down Duval.
Pavlov found her utopia with Mephistos Ularia. The sandal is the sixth one she’s purchased to fuel her soul from The Soul Man.
“They’re casual, yet elegant, comfortable sandals. They’re beautiful day and night footwear! Now I need to have my toenails done.”
The Sole Man is located at 610 Duval Street.