Emilie Blaze

At The Little Shoebox in Ruxton, owner Emilie Blaze celebrates her love of shoes – especially those that are fun, feminine and different from what’s available at every department store across the country.

“Department stores carry every style in brown and black,” she says. “But we like ornaments, glitter, bows – lots of bows – and we try to find that unique shoe.” The result is a collection that’s fun and fresh.

Blaze opened the shop in 2005 with her friend Janie Griffin. In 2014, she bought Griffin’s share of the store and is now sole owner. This year, she also gave the shop a facelift. “We were painted and refreshed over the summer,” she says. “We’re very fresh and clean and pretty – come in and take a look!”

October 2014 new look pictures 071 (1)

Here, she tells the story of the shop’s beginning – and waxes poetic about her love of all things shoe:

How did you get started at The Little Shoebox? What made you open the shop?

My youngest was in school all day and I wanted to get back doing something – I had been a caterer before and had my own business. I was looking at the space and asked who else was interested – I needed a partner.

My leasing agent said a lot of ladies are interested but there’s one in particular – I convinced him to tell me who it was, and it was Janie Griffin. She was teaching my 4 year old! I called her and she said she always wanted a dress store.

Before catering I was at Nordstrom and ran two Irresistibles stores. When I was just out of college I trained with Macy’s for their managerial program. I didn’t want to do clothes. I was originally thinking sandwich shop but the zoning doesn’t handle food. So we thought, the only other thing there’s a real demand for in the area is shoes.

That’s how we got started – really knowing nothing about the shoe industry. We called our favorite shoe stores we’d visited in our travels and they really helped us along. They told us to join the National Shoe Retailers Association and they helped us put a business plan together. Then the shoe companies themselves really helped us figure out how much to buy and how many different styles to buy.

When we opened in august of 2005, we just hit the ground running. It was very exciting for both of us.

As time went on, my children were growing up, Janie’s daughter got married and Janie decided to move to Florida. We tried for two years to have her here for six months of the year, but it just didn’t work. She was getting her real estate license down there. So I bought her out this year and own it now by myself and she’s doing a good job at real estate in Florida.

So now I’m just continuing on with The Little shoebox and it’s really fun.

How do you choose what to carry in the shop?

The best part is buying – it’s so hard to make the decisions!

The whole point is to find pretty, feminine shoes that uphold the quality we want and are fun and pretty to wear. Quality, color, uniqueness, that’s what we look for now – just something different.

With the casualness of times now, we think about versatility, a shoe can you wear with dressy jeans and casual jeans to make your outfit pop and have fun and say a little about your personality.

It’s tough because half the things we choose are very unique, but unless the designers have enough other buyers looking, they won’t cut them. So a lot of what we want does not end up on the showroom floor.

Our medium price point is about $250 but we try to go from about $125 to, for boots, $625 – but we have a lot of boots around the $225-$250 price point as well.

What is your favorite thing in the shop right now?

One of my favorite things are the Lucchese cowboy boots. They’re handmade from San Antonio and they’re gorgeous. They’re just beautifully made and really fun to wear. I love that they’re American made.

And I love Butter – it’s been a wonderful brand for us.  It’s a great shoe company and just started doing Butter Comfort, as well. It’s a moderately priced Italian shoe – one of the only companies that’s still handmade in Italy. Two women design the shoes and they’re just really pretty, very feminine. They use a lot of fabric and bows. We have two styles in a boucle tweed right now that are really fun.

We also carry a lot of unique gifts. I’m always bringing in different things for the hostess – we’re bringing in a lot more of that this time. We have some really gorgeous silk scarves from  LA and a lot of home things, like glass candlesticks that are beautiful and some really fun clocks.

All of our gifts, I try to price affordably so you can have it in your home and not break the bank – you can buy  it as a gift or for yourself.

We’re carrying a beautiful perfume line called Antonia’s Flowers. I know Antonia from Osterville, Massachusetts, where my husband is from. She used to be a floral designer and her perfumes are so light and fresh – just really fresh and very well-priced as well. I have body creams, perfumes and a men’s cologne that’s woodsy.

What is a big trend this fall/winter?

At the beginning of the fall, the shoe bootie was still trending a lot. I had one style with the shoe bootie with the cut out toes – a lot of younger girls love that. I have a fabulous black calf leather slingback that’s a shoe bootie on a tall heel with the toe cut out. They’re trendy but not too expensive and fun if you want that look for a night.

What is your favorite shoe?

I like too many shoes! In the winter I try to wear a lot of different types of boots just because they’re so fun. I go from heels to flats to stilettos – a little bit of everything.

The Little Shoebox is located at 7625 Bellona Avenue in Towson. For more information, visit www.thelittleshoesboxonline.com

Kit Waskom Pollard is a Baltimore Fishbowl contributing writer. She writes Hot Plate every Friday in the Baltimore Fishbowl.