By Catherine M. Koetters | Photos by Michael Moore
After several years owning and operating a comfort shoe store, The Shoe Inn, out of the lobby of his clinic, Pedorthic Care, Duvdevani understood that if he wanted to serve more customers he needed to provide them not just with comfortable shoes and foot orthoses, but also a comfortable experience. The space that houses Pedorthic Care and The Shoe Inn, in an office building just outside Birmingham, AL, looks like a clinic, and the tandem businesses rely primarily on professional referrals.
“I wanted to create a retail environment and have the ability to make custom orthotics on site, but not in a clinical type of setting like we have at Pedorthic Care,” he explained.
Location was key. Complete Feet opened March 1 in downtown Homewood, a Birmingham suburb that is seven miles from Duvdevani’s clinic on a street lined with stores and restaurants and near several medical centers.
“We have people who walk in because they’ve parked in front of us, or they’re just passing by after shopping two doors down or getting their hair cut next door,” said Amy Reese, store manager.
Duvdevani turned a 2600-square-foot former curtain shop into a space designed to be welcoming and fashionable to both casual shoe customers and patients. Individual displays sit at eye level, and the main color scheme in the store is orange. A hallway leads to the clinic, which maintains the same look as the retail store.
Because Complete Feet’s customers range from runners to medical patients, the store offers a wider selection of footwear than The Shoe Inn. Duvdevani carefully researches each brand he brings in, with the goal of selling comfort shoes that are well-designed and built to last, fit comfortably, and can be modified as needed. Complete Feet carries shoes by Naot (Duvdevani’s best seller), Wolky, Taos, Mephisto, New Balance, iRunner, and Dr. Comfort. Plans are under way to bring in two additional brands soon.
Despite the shift to a more retail-focused model, Complete Feet still gives individualized attention to each person who walks through the door.
“We measure and fit everybody every time they come in,” Duvdevani said. “We don’t just hand them shoes.”
And, if a customer needs more than just stylish, comfortable shoes, Complete Feet performs a thorough evaluation and provides a wide range of pedorthic services, including the fabrication and alteration of custom foot orthoses, shoe modifications, rocker soles, and relasting. Many orthotic adjustments can be made in minutes.
As the name suggests, Complete Feet aims to offer everything an individual needs for better foot health, including creams, socks, toe spacers, heel lifts, and off-the-shelf ankle braces and insoles.
As of June, the store was selling more than 100 pairs of shoes a week on average. Duvdevani uses radio and newspaper advertising, direct mail, and participation in local events to help get the word out. A Kia Soul wrapped with Complete Feet’s logo rides around town piquing interest. To strengthen pedorthic referrals, a sales representative creates and maintains relationships with local physicians.
Duvdevani, who says he designed Complete Feet as a franchise opportunity, hopes to open two new Complete Feet stores in the next couple of years, and turn the space where Pedorthic Care and The Shoe Inn currently reside into a third.
“The emphasis is to grow this company on a national level, to turn it into a national brand,” he says. “People look for something like this. I can’t tell you how many people come in and say, ‘Oh my God. This is great. We’ve never had anything like this.’ That’s what we’re trying to create.”
Catherine Koetters is a freelance writer in the Los Angeles area.