Leather Craft

We came upon this shop after brunch last Saturday. I love to find gems like this–ones that we’ve somehow missed these past few years, despite living just blocks away. A simple, beautiful belt in the window drew us in; but what we found was perhaps even more exciting.
Barbara Shaum is apparently a well-known sandal maker (otherwise I might be tempted to keep her a secret): now in her 80s, she has been making custom-fit leather sandals since 1954, and the walls of her small shop are papered with the many fashion magazines from around the world that have featured her work.

In a turnaround time of about four weeks, she measures, cuts, and molds each handmade pair to each client’s feet–for $350 and up. “They used be $12 a pair,” she told us–back when the authorities thought only public enemies (those hippies!) wore “Jesus sandals.” That was a long time ago.

She had some shoes that were worn for photo shoots or otherwise available to try on at the store. We chatted and looked through her selection, and shopped for Ashley’s fantasy-pair–there are around 30 varieties that she custom-makes in the leather of your choosing. What a treasure!

Interesting side note: in the 70s, Barbara Shaum was among the first women to be served at McSorley’s Ale House–this wonderfully atmospheric, East Village Irish Pub that dates back to the 19th century.

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