Pat Short, owner of Shooz in South Street, has just celebrated 30 years of trading in footwear in the town, joining her neighbour and fellow long-timer Mark Turner of Backstage at this very special milestone.
Pat’s retailing career began in quite a different business – Wellington Frozen Foods in North Street. “I enjoyed meeting people and selling,” she explained, “and had seen this shop which at that time – in 1985 – sold light fittings, but I didn’t really know what to sell. I had thought about a dress shop but knowledge is needed. Shoes were an idea and my brother was Director of a shoe wholesaler, so I contacted him for advice and ideas. Shooz just started from there.”
The shop is tucked away behind South Street – a position which seemed at first “questionable” but it has access from both there and Lambs Court. On the evidence of a constant stream of customers it appears to have a very well-established clientele. It was also a convenient location for Pat to work from when her daughters were at Wellington School. “I just really wanted to make pocket money and hated having nothing to do,” she said, “but now it has become everything to me.”
“Originally I sold men’s, women’s and children’s shoes,” Pat explained, “but men’s shoes are quite boring and my inclination and preferences were for ladies’ footwear so that’s what I sell now.”
Regular visitors to Shooz also know that Pat sells a few items of women’s wear. “I bought an attractive, stylish poncho in Bradford-on-Avon last year. It’s made by a company run by two brothers whose factory in Nepal specialises in cashmere – although that’s not a route I want to go down. The poncho and jumpers I displayed in the shop proved so popular I’m now reordering.” She also sells fleeces made by a husband and wife team in Sidmouth.
Pat runs the business by herself but can call upon two friends to help, allowing her time off. The business, though, is clearly much more than ‘work’ for her. “I have a really loyal customer base, many are shopkeepers, and Wellington is such a nice place to work.”
Perhaps the most telling testament to 30 years of trading came from one customer who said, “I always come here to buy shoes. Pat always knows exactly what I want and the shop’s lovely.”