So how exactly did a 24 year old with a love of shoes, a background in architecture and absolutely NO RETAIL experience make Scarpa one of the most beloved shoe stores in Virginia? As Amy Gardner put it (I’m paraphrasing this divine quote) “It’s like having a baby at seventeen, you know it’s possible and people have done it before.” But at 24 how did Amy Gardner pull off the shoe lover’s dream? As a side note not only is Amy Gardner an articulate, interesting, bright, and charismatic shoe store owner, or “the keeper of the shoe mecca” of Charlottesville, she is the type of person that you want to be friends with. She is thoughtful, fair, witty and a wonderful listener. On the flip side I’m a big talker. She really is the type of person you immediately want to be friends with in Charlottesville. Throughout my interview with Amy her sense of loyalty, a dead on moral compass, and well, I’ll try to paraphrase it on my own words, a sense of integrity, was a consistent and comforting undertone throughout all of our conversations.
Any way back on point–Amy acknowledged two things that stood out most for her as a 24 year old commencing on a pretty big adventure. First of all, she had the fearlessness that both youth and visionaries of all types have along with the attitude necessary. “I’d rather do something and fail than have to look back twenty years from now and wished I’d tried.” Second, (which just happens to be something I value VERY much in other people) SHE DIDN’T KNOW EVERYTHING. I’m still working on that one… so she wrote a business plan, got as much input from shoe and retail conferences/markets in the summer of August 1993 and then she went searching for the BIGGIE… capital. After capital came one of the most important investments in time and energy a budding business owner comes across… location. As they say…LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION. Amy found it at Barracks Road and has not looked back since, as it has remained Scarpa’s permanent home! But how exactly did Scarpa go from a store for UVA girls who had to drive out of town for shoes, to having a clientele that reached all over Virginia, and also has a dedicated “cult following?” Well that’s Amy and her vision of Scarpa. Her vision became conceptualized, with a couple of different values. First, have enough name brands people have confidence in. Second, fresh new designers. Lastly, like any good portfolio with risk and reward, diversity–representing products with a wide range. Over the past 20 years Amy has driven through Scarpa’s fabulous, yet varied, eclectic shoe collection with her belief that Scarpa gives women an atmosphere and a foundation to become “confident in their own style.” That women can have a sense of empowerment through “shoes”–and yes, empowerment through clothing is possible but that my friends is a whole new topic for another day!
After a couple of hours of chatting with my feet up beside Amy, laid back comfortably in an office chair, I asked her how she would describe Scarpa’s range of shoes right now? Sitting back thoughtfully, she mused, “Rock star goes to the country club for lunch, but with a little bit of Rock n’ roll…” Keep Rocking Amy Gardner! She is giving women an option with shoes that may give a little more confidence, some inspiration, and maybe can help them envision who they want to be and where they want to be today and in the future. Hey its just shoes, right? Try uttering that phrase to a shoe lover, you won’t get very far!
Hopefully we will be hearing A LOT More from Amy Gardner in the future!
Check out Scarpa here:
2114a Barracks Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
Fiorentini and Baker
and so so so much more!!!!!