Many of us have discovered the delightful shoe shop in St. Johns on North Burlington next to Barrique Barrel and at the back of the building that used to be a hardware store.
One thing that makes RõM Shoes so special is that the owner, Annalisa Romano, only carries brands that have a strong commitment to their communities and employees. Some are from Fair Trade Certified factories, others are employee owned or give a percentage of profits to help charitable causes.
Recently I had the opportunity to ask Annalisa about her business. This is an excerpt from our interview.
Q: How do you choose the brands that RõM carries?
A: I research a lot. In this country especially, we are confronted with so many choices. When we buy something we are in essence saying, “It’s OK how you made this. Here is Money to make more of it.” So, one of the main factors that I use to bring brands into my shop is their business practices.
If they are transparent in manufacturing practices, if quality is an actual consideration, if they give back, if they have a social impact, if they are considerate of the environment, if they are fair trade, if their workers are treated well — these are things I look for. When I see these items, then I feel comfortable bringing them into my space.
When I first started out the shop I didn’t think that there were as many committed brands as I am now realizing. For some brands it’s at the forefront of their whole business, while others quietly do it. Either way, I think it’s great.
Also, it appears that when a company cares about more than just the bottom line, it’s very apparent in the quality of their products.
Q: You carry emerging designers along with better known brands. How do you go about finding new shoe designers or companies?
A: A lot of times I accidentally find new brands while researching other things. I tend to read about everything I buy before I buy it, so I stumble across them. Within the last year I have gotten referrals from customers who get a feel for the store and say, “Have you heard of …? I could totally see them in here.” Which is always a good way. Usually people will only recommend something that they have had a positive experience with.
Q: Do you carry any made in America brands?
A: Currently I don’t carry any shoes that are made in the USA. I had some in the past, but they were very price prohibitive. I like to keep the price range to be $200 and under. However, I am always looking, so chances are you will find some soon!
I can support American made in other ways, though. 99% of the socks that we carry are made in the US. The Darn Tough brand in particular are all made in Vermont and have a lifetime guarantee — which is amazing for socks! We also like to carry a rotating stock of local jewelry designers and leather crafters.