It was back in 2015 when Brian Gavigan, Buffalo’s youngest cobbler, opened up Sole Man on Elmwood Avenue. Since that time, Gavigan has built up a loyal shoe repair clientele, for both men and women, while concentrating on selling men’s shoes (new and refurbished). As much as that has been a good formula for the business, there have been plenty of women who have inquired about purchasing shoes and boots.
“They always ask me when I’m going to start selling women’s shoes,” Gavigan told me. “I always thought that would be like opening Pandora’s Box, because women’s shoe and boot styles change so fast – there are so many styles, brands… how could I keep up with the changes?”
During the pandemic, Gavigan learned that the salon in his building had closed. While his own business was certainly not “thriving,” he felt that this was an opportunity that he had to jump on. “Yup, in the midst of the pandemic, I decided to expand instead of cutting back,” he explained. “The shops will be connected – Sole Mate will be a natural extension of Sole Man. Sole Mate will concentrate on the women’s classics, with a focus on quality. We will be selling new and refurbished high heels, flats… motorcycle, riding, and winter boots, and everything in-between, as well as accessories. Per usual, we will also be servicing shoes and leather goods. I want the women’s shop to very welcoming, with a lounge-like area where customers can get coffee or a glass of wine – a place to sit down and relax. There will be a family room, a powder room, and even a patio. This will be a shop where women can find classic and timeless brands.”
Ultimately, Gavigan owes the ongoing success of Sole Man, and the ability to embark upon a new venture, to his loyal customers who have supported him since the start. “As a small business in the midst of a pandemic, I am taking a bit of a risk, but I knew that I had to realize the opportunity at the same time.”
In the midst of a very scary time for small retailers, this is certainly welcome news – to learn about another small business that is investing, instead of shuttering. I’m sure that this decision will end up paying off for Gavigan, who always seems to be ahead of the times, while operating an old world business.
Gavigan anticipates Sole Mate to open December 21, on the winter solstice. Gift certificates are now available for that perfect stocking stuffer for both Sole Man and Sole Mate.
Sole Man and Sole Mate – 565 Elmwood – Corner of Elmwood and Anderson | Buffalo NY | (716) 836-6464 | Facebook