"Footcandy's owners are building their business with persistence and"
pened to bump into Blahnik and George Malkemus. Still, Carolyn said it took numerous phone calls after their impromptu meeting — and the better part of a year — before she finally reached Malkemus. “He said, ‘You are the most politely persistent person I know,’” she said. “I think I was the first new door he had opened in about six years.” Her tenacity soon helped secure additional designers such as Jimmy Choo FN AchievemeNt AwArds 2007 and Louis Vuitton. Today, the St. Helena location alone tallies $2 million in iNdePeNdeNt retAiLer OF the YeAr annual sales. Eighteen months after opening her first store, Carolyn expanded to a sec- ond location, in Sonoma, Calif. “There was a shoe boutique in Sonoma and the lady who owned it wanted to sell it,” she said. “She had other offers, but she Candy Land approached me. I looked at the location, and it was perfect.” In 2005, Carolyn began eyeing possible spots for a third store, in Walnut Creek, Calif. A friend then floated the idea of franchising the Footcandy name. A year later, Xiomara Zelaya and Robyne Wilson approached Carolyn to franchise their first store. They opened their boutique in Los Angeles’ tony Brentwood neighborhood. Footcandy’s owners are building their business But Carolyn continues to buy for all of the stores. “When I go buying, I come with persistence and franchising — and, of back and say, ‘This is what we have,’ and they decide if they want all of it or course, the best names in the business. some of it.” By WAYNE NIEMI Surprisingly, Carolyn said there is little inventory deviation from store to store. “It doesn’t vary that much, to be honest,” she said. “Brentwood and St. Helena Footcandy owner Carolyn Butler and husband Perry are liv- ing the American Dream. They came to the U.S. in 1982 with a suitcase, no home and little money. But what they lacked in material value, they more than made up in gumption. Three years after arriving from Yorkshire, England, the duo founded Global Dynamics, a computer services com- pany that linked U.S.-based firms, such as American Air- lines, with computer programmers all around the world. In 1997, they sold that company for more than $13 mil- lion, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, and moved to St. Helena, Calif., in the heart of wine country. There, they settled on a 50-acre lot, where they built a new home and planted vines, giving life to Juslyn Vineyards — a combination of Carolyn’s name and their daughter’s, Justine. While the budding winery kept Perry busy, Carolyn pre- ferred to stay home with her daughter during her high school years. But once Justine left for college, Carolyn was ready for a new challenge. On a trip to New York in 2002, the Butlers brainstormed about other businesses that might prove interesting. “I just love shoes,” she said. “I really do. We landed in New York and I said, ‘I need to run up and down Madison Avenue, see all the boutiques and find out how to do this.’” The boutiques offered valuable advice and contacts that helped make the business prospect become a reality. Weeks later, Carolyn are very much alike, and Walnut Creek is a little more reserved. But when [Chris- Footcandy’s Carolyn shopped the Collections at WSA to assemble a product line that mirrored her tian] Louboutin comes in, they’re gone instantly in all the stores.” and Perry Butler in their St. Helena, Calif., own closet and her favorite designer names. With some at-once orders, her The stores’ consumers range from 15 to 70 years old, and Carolyn said they store on Nov. 26. store opened for business in November 2002. attract a mix of locals, tourists and celebrities, including Jessica Simpson, “I am the consumer,” she said. “I sell to myself. I looked in my closet and saw Kathy Lee Gifford and Suzanne Somers. Manolo [Blahnik], Jimmy Choo and Giuseppe Zanotti, and I knew these were the Looking ahead, Carolyn said she’s eager to bring in new styles from Strutt labels I wanted to carry.” Couture for spring ’08, and to add Jonathan Kelsey for fall, hoping to recreate Of course, Carolyn faced challenges familiar to other high-end, start-up retail- the success she had with emerging designers Alexandra Neel and Rupert ers: convincing designer labels to let her hawk their wares. Sanderson. “They want to see that you’re not an overnight [whim] and that you are for Two additional franchised locations are also in the works — one in Newport real,” she said. “Shoe designers are so passionate about what they do and they Beach, the other in Malibu. Carolyn said she envisions 20 Footcandy stores want to make sure that you are, too.” in all. “I’d like to get big enough so that we’re not just a boutique but a known Luck also helps. While in the San Francisco airport, Carolyn and Perry hap- name,” she said. “Twenty would do that.” 26 FN www.footwearnews.com DECEMBER 3, 2007