There was a store near other stores. It was shabby, rundown looking in comparison to jewelry outlets, Urban Outfitters and the Apple Store but I went in anyway. The sign above the entrance was not excessively creative; it merely said shoes and was hard to make out at that.
The inside was no more impressive. Rows of shoes were stacked on top of each other giving the impression of little organization or care. The tips of helter-skelter shoes I managed to see poking out from the conglomeration were UGLY to put it nicely. I had to wonder who would own such an establishment. It didn’t take me long to figure out.
“Hello,” an older gentleman said greeting me. “You’ve come to see shoes?”
He wasn’t wearing any himself. The old man had greeted me inside a shoe shop wearing slippers. I immediately took it as an indication of faithlessness in his product.
“I’m, um, just looking, thanks.”
“Many say that, and many are surprised.”
“Really? I might be blunt with this, but this is one of the most rundown, shoddy looking stores I’ve ever seen. You don’t even try to make your product presentable!”
“It is… old shop.”
“I see that.”
“No, old shop. I sell old shoes. Tried, tested, traveled!”
“And why would anyone buy such a thing with a Footlocker down the mall?”
“Footlocker has nothing. New shoes are slave shoes. I don’t sell trash.”
“Then what do you sell?”
“As I told you, I sell old shoes. These shoes, they’ve been places. There’s a memory about them guiding you. Have you not heard of soles?”
“This has gone too far. Soles are spelled differently than souls.”
“But should they be? Look at your shoes. They are Nikes, are they not? I imagine they were made in a sweatshop no earlier than last year. And what is the condition of their soul? It is in poor shape. It was made of blood, sweat and fear. My shoes are made of trust and love. They have shared bonds with their owners; bonds your Reeboks and Nikes will never have.”
“And where are these owners now,” I asked.
“They have moved on but left their impressions and their lessons in the leather all around you.”
Call me crazy but I looked around and I saw something just then. Faces smiled up at me, though less somber than a graveyard. There was eagerness in their eyes to go someplace new, with someone new and pass on old experience. I knew, I had to have a pair of shoes; a pair with character.