have to say, I am honored that I got to spend some time chatting with Marie Rivers, the owner of Sven Clogs. Beyond honored, in fact. I think the proper verb to use would be "amazed". The woman literally is in non-stop motion from sun up to sundown and she even runs home to make lunch and dinner for her husband. But what I didn't make clear in Part One of this interview is that I arrived on her doorstep on the Friday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend. She was busy finishing off a clog or two in her workshop before running upstairs to oversee the final stages of moving the contents of her shoe store and gift shop to a brand new location that was going to open for business for the first time the next day. I feel like going and having a lie down just thinking about it. And in the midst of all that whirl and churn, she took the time to sit down with me and answer a few questions. Coherently.
The woman is absolutely amazing.
But I'll let you come to your own conclusions.
ECHID: People connect with clogs as being comfortable and healthy shoes. Even orthopedic in some ways. But there's also a fun factor of wearing a wooden shoe. Can you talk about that?
Marie: Well, they are extremely good for your feet. I stand on the cement down here [in the workshop] 12, 14 hours a day. And in my lifetime, I've never had a backache. I never, ever get a backache. And when you've got comfortable shoes, you don't think about your feet. Your body doesn't know if you have cheap clothes, but your feet know if you have cheap shoes.
For me, I'm not a person who thinks, "Oh, is that the height of fashion?" even though we do make fashionable shoes. But I think it's a shoe that you can kind of be who you are. And we've got so many different styles, you can pick who you want to be. I mean you can be dressed up one day, you can be casual. You can go all different ways with our clogs. So even though they're always basically a healthy, comfortable shoe,…you can pick who you want to be. Where with other shoes, if you're an athletic shoe? That's what that is. If you're in flip-flops, that's what you are there. But with clogs you can be whoever you want…with healthy feet.
And then since you can make the styles you want, you can be fun. Like Cecilia (Cecilia Tidlund of Clogmasters, another brand that Sven Clogs manufactures). She's got one customer who has a lime shoe with a magenta collar and then she'll make [for the other foot] the magenta shoe with a lime collar. So people can do all that kind of stuff [with clogs] . You can't go to Macy's and get that done. (laughs)
ECHID: Have you had a request for a crazy design?
Marie: Have you seen Cecilia's shoes? (laughs) She has crazy, crazy designs. She'll have like a men's size 48 that are yellow patent and orange or something. It might be for a pediatrician.
ECHID: Like Patch Adams.
Marie: So we do a lot of stuff like that. And you know, people just can't get that anywhere else.
And then you know clog wearers. You get one. You get two. Then four. Then six. Then, "Don't tell my wife that this is my eighth pair." Lisa (Sven Clogs Office Manager) has gotten that where "If you ship it on this day, she won't be home on Wednesday when it comes."
Marie: And I find it amusing that it's a man that does that. And not the women.
ECHID: She's got her own stash going!
Marie: Yeah! "Ship mine on the next day 'cause he won't be home Thursday." (laughs)
Marie: When people say, "I've never had a pair of shoes that fit me before." Whether they be very, very narrow feet or really, really wide. (turns to Lisa) Like that one guy that was a size 50. We made him a pair of clogs. And he never had a pair of shoes that really fit. That's a big shoe. A very big shoe. But it's really neat when you can make something to fit because especially if they've got really narrow feet. They just can't find anything. Or two different size feet! We can do all that. And it just makes you feel good when someone says, "I love my clogs!"
Marie: (pauses to give it some thought) That I'm still here! (laughs) Because when Sven and I split up about 17 years ago, that's all I ever heard was: you're never going to make it! Well, I had been doing this for many years, but "how would a woman ever make it in business?", you know? So yes, I did it. And I'm doing quite well. Despite all the guys who thought I was going to drown.
ECHID: I was going to say, you can relax now. I think you've made it. You don't have to work quite so hard!
Marie: You know, it's been 34 years of my life that I've been doing this, and it just seems like I've fought, fought, fought, fought, fought all the time. And then I got divorced and started from zero again. And I fought my way all the way back. And now, finally,…(takes deep breath)…there's cash flow. The business is great. It just keeps getting bigger. And it's not even the money, it's the game now. It's just fun. Because now you don't have to. Now you can just enjoy it.
It's starting this. (gestures to the Loeffler Randall platform sandal clog) Getting a client like this. And knowing that they are a very exclusive client. And they like coming to you.
And like with J. Crew, I said, "Did you want private label?" And they said, "No, we want your name."
Marie: That makes you feel like…(thumps the table, voice brims with pride)…someone thinks my baby's pretty. (laughs) And that's kind of how I feel. 'Cause it's like my child, you know. And that's just how I feel about it.
[On my feet as I blog: it's Storytime! I seem to be taking a tour of my closet faves lately, and this staple from BC Footwear is back on my radar. (Different pants, though.)]