When ShoeFly initially opened at 810 Elmwood Avenue in 2002, owner Sue Marfino told us that she wanted to bring something to the city that just wasn’t around at the time. By opening, she brought some footwear funk to the street, which was a nice touch considering that a street’s fashion identity can often times be encapsulated by the shoe styles that are peddled.
After 18 years in the footwear business, Marfino is ready to take her next step. It was in 2019 that she began to contemplate a pivot, although she wasn’t exactly sure what that would look like. What she did know was that she didn’t want to leave a vacant storefront on the street – she wasn’t ready to throw in the towel, she just didn’t want to sell shoes full time anymore. That said, she will still participate in an exclusive shoe pop-up event once a month, to keep her customers (and herself) happy. She told me that shoes will still be the “backbone” of the concept – while she takes care of the “shoe department,” other sellers will round out the retail offerings.
“Shopping habits have changed,” Marfino told me. There’s no urgency to buy anything, because everything can be purchased online. In 2002 I opened a store that would bring something to Buffalo that wasn’t already here. I feel that it’s time to do that again. I didn’t want to shift during the pandemic, but now that things are getting back to normal, it couldn’t be a better time for change.”
Instead of operating a straight-up retail shop, Marfino will be morphing her storefront into an incubator of sorts, but not in the traditional sense of the word. She’s looking to mix it up by hosting an ongoing series of in-store pop-ups, sample and trunk sales, events, art openings… whatever feels right at the time. Starting in the fall, she has already lined up three entrepreneurs/vendors who will be conducting store “takeovers.” This ongoing pop-up/takeover series will ensure that numerous participants are involved, and the revolving merchandise will remain current and unpredictable. Marfino is also working on some special collaborative surprises that she hopes to introduce at later dates, once the new concept is firmly in place.”
Marfino told me that she is going to keep brainstorming cool ideas to keep the storefront busy – art openings, collaborations, mini-fashion expos, featured makers… not all at once mind you – each entity will completely take over the store for a period of time, before the next “show” sets up. This will allow numerous entrepreneurs to test out Elmwood (incubator-style), without signing a lease.
“It’s going to be good for everyone involved,” explained Marfino. “There are so many people that want to participate – I want to see more young entrepreneurs setting up on the street, who might not otherwise have a chance to test out the market. At this point, I’m hosting ShoeFly merchandise sales to clear out my inventory, before I begin to roll out this new venture in the fall. No one wants to see an empty storefront, and this allows me to participate in the livelihood of a street that I have come to love, while bringing more people (and diverse merchandise) to the street.”
“New is always good,” imparted Marfino. “I’m not looking back… I’m looking forward.”
You can follow Marfino and her adventures on Facebook.