Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
You might not like dresses, you might not like pants. You may never be into expensive bags, and you may never buy into the latest ring trend. Makeup might always be optional for you, and your hair might always be in a no bullshit bun. But if there's one thing every girl can bond over, it's shoes, and no one in this city knows that better than Joanna Paige.
Long before the cranes rolled in to build Brickell City Centre, Joanna and her family signed on to be one of the first tenants at Mary Brickell Village, thus pioneering the neighborhood's retail scene. That was seven years ago, and today the store is brimming with the kinds of shoes a girl would kill to fill her closet with: Dolce Vita, Schutz, Loeffler Randal, and Joie, plus lust-worthy handbags by Milly, Elizabeth and James, and Rebecca Minkoff, and jewelry by up-and-coming brands like Vanessa Mooney and Luv AJ. In a city where boutiques are classified as luxury or lower end, Joanna has managed to succeed at finding that middle ground, where you can find coveted, edgy brands and styles that no one else in this city carries, at prices you can actually afford.
Joanna is no stranger to the business of shoes. Her father owned Cavanaugh's in South Miami, which saw many basketball players, businessmen, and dads come through to buy their high end drivers and wing tips. It was on Sunset Drive where he met Joanna's mom, and the idea to open up a women's shoe store came about. She went on to study art and came home to run her eponymous shoe store, buying into the business about a year ago when she realized it was what ultimately what she wanted to do. In short, her dad planted the seeds, and she's let the blossoms grow. We sat down with this store owner and her pup, Shongy, to chat about shoes and how she's been keeping up with Miami's and fashion's changing retail landscape.
What made you want to jump into the shoe business?
My dad owned Cavanaghs for 35 years, which he opened with his dad in South Miami. So I grew up in a shoe store. I have a degree in painting from Corcoran in Washington D.C, but as they tell you in art school, only one percent of [graduates] will become artists. I was doing it at first, but then I had been spending so much time at the store that I got really into it. I started doing the buying, social media became a thing. So I just took over for my mom.
You opened your store seven and a half years ago when Brickell was a very different place. What made you want to open here?
Because we knew it was going to be an up and coming area. I guess Alex [the founder of Studio LX] and my dad knew it was going to be good. [Looks over to Brickell City Centre]. Obviously they were right.
It's about striking a balance. Boutiques, unless you're doing something really special, there's no point.
You got your foot in early though!
Yeah, maybe a little too early [laughs], but if we hadn't we probably wouldn't have the spot that we have now. A lot of people have come and gone.
Why do you think you've been able to succeed?
You need to change with the times. Before, people would buy things ahead of time, wait, and wear it. No one's doing that anymore. When people are shopping, they think, what can I wear right now? They want an outfit for tonight. They want something they can go with that outfit, those shoes, and be done. We want easier things to sell, no brainers. Our most expensive shoes used to be $300, now they're $200. We can't sell shoes at that price point anymore. [The Brickell] customer is not necessarily there for that in this area, even though you would think they are.
How do you decide what goes into your store?
It's a sensitive balance between what you think is going to be cool and what's going to sell. Something could be so awesome and I'll love it, but then I have to look at the price point and when it's delivering because I do my buying six months in advance. Even though it's fall in other places, fall in Miami isn't the same. Schutz sent me a list of what's ready to be sent to me today, and I can't take the shoes because no one is buying boots here! Everyone else is getting into fall, but we're just like, sweating. And in Miami it has to be sexy also. I may think it's trendy or cool, but is it sexy enough for my customer?
Do you find it hard to follow trends in Miami because you have to keep it sexy?
Very challenging. Because a lot of the trends that are everywhere else, people don't attain to here. Like the menswear trend. Who in Miami wears menswear? Like we picked up rainbow Tevas, but luckily it was Ultra and we knew they would sell.
So Brickell is one giant construction zone right now. Has that caused you any problems?
Brickell has so much construction right now in this one mile radius and we've had to deal with the bulk of that. Lots of noise, traffic, there's no parking. No one wants to come here. We also opened during the recession, in December 2007. We've gone through every possible obstacle that there can be and we're still here. Hopefully we're doing something right! The obstacles that have occurred over the past few years with social media, websites, and the internet- that's nothing that retail has ever had to go through. Stores were destinations before. Now if you want to go shopping, you pick up your phone. It's all about discounts, promotions, anything you could get for free. And everyone does it because you have to compete. It's about striking a balance. Boutiques, unless you're doing something really special, there's no point.
What do you like most about owning a store in Miami?
People have so much style here. You can wear whatever you want. Nowhere else is like that. I guess New York City, but people will look at you if you're wearing bright colors. No one's going to look at you if you're wearing a crazy neon dress here with six inch stilettos. Here if you have anything on, you could make it work. Fashion is art, and Miami is definitely an amazing place to be able to show that. We try and get those special shoes that make an outfit, plus the jewelry.
What's the biggest misconception about having your own store?
People don't think about how much work goes into buying and into retail. You're working from 10am to 9pm, during holidays, and you're the busiest during holidays when everyone else is off. November and December? I don't have a second in those two months. You have Black Friday, Hanukkah Christmas, and New Years. There is no second for you to have any time for yourself.
So you literally don't have a day off. Is it even worth it to own your own business?
Yes, because I'm that kind of person. I love my job even though I wish I could take a few days off. But I'm working towards something... It's like my baby. I put my heart and soul into it. It's my everything.
And on that note, let's move on to the fire round.
What's your go-to cocktail?
Tequila on the rocks.
Heels or flats?
DC or Miami?
Favorite Miami neighborhood.
If you were a fruit, what fruit would you be?
A peach, because I bruise easily.
Favorite 90s rapper.
Favorite thing to do when you go home.
Take off my pants! And watch tv...
Describe your style in one word.
Describe Joanna Paige in one word.