Saying Goodbye to Larchmont Blvd.

Wendy at Village Footwear and customer Robin Jameson
Wendy at Village Footwear, with customer Robin Jameson. The store is closing at the end of the month after 19 years at 248 N. Larchmont Blvd.

When a store closes on Larchmont, so much more leaves the street than a business. Lost are the relationships between shop owner and staff and the customers who have become friends over the years.

VillageFootwear2Last week, we reported that (among other comings and goings) Village Footwear was closing after 19 years on the Boulevard. It was one of the most-read stories we’ve ever published, with more than 9,000 people reading it through our website and Facebook page.

Readers told us they were sad to lose Village Footwear, but they were also mourning the loss of something else — their friends and their sense of neighborhood.

Store owner Evan Veitch and her manager, Wendy N., have been fixtures on the street for nearly two decades. Both Evan and Wendy told us they would miss their customers more than anything else.

“I am going to miss everyone,” said Wendy N. “It’s really been my honor to serve these people. I feel like they are family,” she added.

While I was visiting the store, Wendy was helping fit a customer from Pacific Palisades who’s been shopping at Village Footwear for years. She came in for the final sale, to say goodbye and stock up on her favorite shoes. Then local garden designer Judy Horton came in, saying she’d be back at the end of week with her book club, which meets monthly up the street and has lunch at Prado next door, followed by some shoe shopping.

“In the last 15 years, I’ve never bought shoes anywhere but here,” said Horton, adding that everyone else in the book group is from the West LA and they love shopping here, too. Horton said a chiropractor recommended the store, and told her to talk to Veitch about finding a comfortable pair of shoes that support her back.

A few minutes later, Robin Jameson stopped in with her best friend, who’s visiting from San Francisco. “Wendy has an Wendyandcostumerincredible connection with people,” said Jameson, who’s been shopping at the store since she moved to Windsor Square four years ago. “It’s so comfortable here. My mother loves coming, we do some shopping, speak some Italian. It’s so unique,” she said. “When I read they were leaving, I thought, “Oh please, say it isn’t so!””

Twenty years ago, Veitch left the production business and started working as a buyer for a small group of shoe stores. She quickly realized she was good at it, and opened her shop at 248 N Larchmont Blvd. in 1997.

“I started with getting the most comfortable shoes I could find. I tried on everything I bought,” said Veitch. “I wanted a big price range, so there would be something for everyone who came in the store. I didn’t want anyone to feel like the prices were too high.”

But most importantly, Veitch bought what she liked and what she thought her customers would appreciate. She preferred to deal with small shoe manufacturers who offered great products and good service, and weren’t in department stores, so her customers would know that their shoes were not likely to show up everywhere. Many of the brands she carried were from Europe and were sized differently, so Veitch and Wendy had to be ready with lots of personal service to make sure customers were paired with the right shoes.

Veitch operated a children’s shoe store for about 5 years at 115 N Larchmont, before a substantial rent increase forced her out.  Looking back, Veitch said that was the beginning of the era of rising rents on Larchmont, as building owners began to ratchet up their rates.  (Joane Pickett took the old kids’ shoe store space and opened up Petticoats for several years. Now it’s home to A Silver Lining Frames.)

But Veitch said the world of retail is also changing. Inventory is more expensive, which is why so many stores don’t stock as much, and more and more customers shop online. As a result, Larchmont is changing too. Small retail stores focused on local clientele are challenged when rents double like they did for Veitch. Also, retail experts say shopping has become more “experiential,” as stores try to become “life-style destinations.”

Where that trend will take Larchmont isn’t clear yet, but according to Veitch, a bakery has already signed a lease to take her space.  As for Veitch, she’s not sure what she’ll do next, but she’s collecting emails and contact information from customers, just in case she decides to re-open.  For now, everything in the store is on sale. Check it out or just come in to say goodbye and thanks for all the great shoes over the years.

 

 

 

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About Patricia Lombard

Patricia Lombard is the co-editor and publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

3 thoughts on “Saying Goodbye to Larchmont Blvd.

  1. Wonderful story about Wendy at the Village Footwear shop. She was really the person who made that shop the gem that it was. She always knew exactly what shoes I needed, and had a wealth of knowledge about shoes that would provide both style and be healthy for my feet, knees and back. She had a heart of gold on top of it all. If she had worked on commission, she would have been a rich woman by now! Hoping the store closing will lead to a new and exciting opportunity for wonderful Wendy!

  2. This is another neighborhood tragedy. Neighborhood specialty stores that were once the norm in enclaves like Hancock Park, Brentwood, Venice, Beverly Hills are giving way to chain stores!!! I could drive from Hancock Park to Abnott Kinney and pretty much run into the same chain stores with identical merchandise. Real estate is killing the imagination of retail!!! And online shopping lacks the soul, tactile, community experience of experiencing shoes in a warm, welcoming environment. Is the price per square foot more important than the customers, retailers, and the experience??? It appears we have allowed this to be so.

    My footwear wardrobe has improved exponentially since I met Wendy at Village Footeear many years ago and allowed her to share her knowledge with me as I contemplated my purchases. This superb boutique, an inviting mix of charm, unique and wearable merchandise, and personal service is now a part of our past. And I will miss it.

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