For more than two decades, 1682 Haight Street in San Francisco’s historic Haight-Ashbury district has been an address to find and buy fashionable footwear. Despite name and ownership changes over the years, that tradition continues at said address. Here, current occupant Kipling Rowe discusses her store’s history, local shoe trends and the joys and woes of being a new/adoptive store owner. Interview by Christopher Blomquist

What is the background and history of your store?
Piper's Shoe Parlor was started by a brother and sister team. The location of the store on Haight Street has been a shoe store for over 20 years. The store was called Villains. It was a go-to shop for years and years. When the family took it over in 2011 they changed the name from Villains to Piper’s Shoe Parlor. After nearly three years of a successful shop in San Francisco, the family moved apart, making it too difficult to run the shop. I bought the store in April 2014. I decided to keep the name and reopen as quickly as possible. I reopened May 1, 2014 and each day is like Christmas: We are receiving new stock all the time. I wanted to connect with the neighborhood and community. It has been a great three months!

What are your current bestsellers?
Our bestselling brands at the moment are: Wolverine, Red Wing, Miista, Seychelles, BC, Jeffrey Campbell, Clae, H by Hudson, PSKaufman, Chrome and Blu Kicks. Plus we have an ever-growing kids department. We carry Plae, Livie & Luka and Blundstone for kids, with more to come….

Who is your "typical" customer?
As I am getting to know the customer, there is no “typical” customer on Haight Street. We get a lot of international tourists and the local community is beginning to notice us.

"We try to offer shoes that are not too common and that are high quality."
"We try to offer shoes that are not too common and that are high quality."


How does the store stand out from other shops in the area?
I think Piper’s has a great advantage to standing out compared to the other shoe stores in neighborhood. We are small and cater to more individual thinkers. We try to offer shoes that are not too common and that are high quality. The employees are creative, young and really familiar with the brands and what they have to offer. It gives the shop a personal feel. We try to dig a little deeper to help the customer find what they are looking for along with comfort.

What is the retail scene like in San Francisco at the moment?
I am just trying to figure that out myself! But so far, eclectic. The city really embraces small business. I find that refreshing.

What are the key fashion footwear trends at the moment and what do you think will be the ones in coming seasons?
I think for San Francisco, people look for comfort, quality and uniqueness. Sky-high heels are not our forte. Ankle boots, perforated leathers and pointy flats as opposed to the round ballet flat… Also leather sneakers, eco-friendly [models] and work boots.

How do you discover new brands and/or merchandise?
I have been lucky to have some brands that did well with the previous owner spill over. As well, the fashion-forward staff members are in tune with what’s working around the street. However, I am digging deeper. I think brands like PSKaufman are cool and interesting. They use a lot of recycled material, such as tire treads for soles, and offer a twist on classic designs.

How do you stay in touch with your customers?
I still like to stay in touch old-school style. I like to special order for people and CALL them. Talk and communicate. We do have a mailing list via Internet. But to connect face-to-face is refreshing. I love people. I love to hear what they are looking for, what they want. I love to bring them back to the store and establish a relationship. It's a forgotten art with the mass addiction to the Internet.

Do you offer any special services?
Besides our good customer service we strive for? Special ordering and shipping directly to the customer if they are not local. Our staff will also research while the client is shopping.

" The location of the store on Haight Street has been a shoe store for over 20 years."
" The location of the store on Haight Street has been a shoe store for over 20 years."


What are the biggest challenges of being an independent retailer today and how do you overcome them?
One challenge is online shopping. I understand, being a parent myself and working. It can make life easier but it takes away the gratification of shopping and the excitement. Another is keeping all of your products in stock.

What are some "golden rules" that every retailer needs to follow?
Having great employees–people who are loyal and fully understand the brands. They should be happy to be there and love people. I think it is contagious!

Piper’s Shoe Parlor
1682 Haight Street
San Francisco, CA 94117
+1 415 553 6884
www.pipershoes.com