Feed the sole

THE atmospheric shop that is Bodkins Bootery has been selling quality footwear on Fremantle’s High Street for almost 130 years.

The original owners were the Pearce and Swan Shoe Co, which had a factory in North Fremantle.

It’s been Bodkins for almost half-a-century, and passers-by often come in just to soak up the Dickensian feel, owner Robert Bodkin says.

“[It’s] been a shoe shop since the late 1880s…visitors love to hear the story, he says.

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Fremantle has changed since Bodkins opened in 1969, and like businesses everywhere times are tough, especially for those selling high-end products.

Cheap shoes bought online from China don’t just hurt feet, they can cripple local businesses, Mr Bodkin says.

“I can’t understand anyone buying footwear online [from China], because you don’t know what your’e buying.” (And there’s no comeback if a heel comes off a month later).

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Bodkins sells a range of dress shoes, sports shoes and orthotics — and I can vouch for their shoe repair service.

One of the biggest changes over almost half-a-century is that male customers outnumber the female ones.

It seems most young women just want cheap rip-offs of what the Kardashians are wearing, while blokes want quality that lasts.

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But it’s not all doom and gloom: “Sales are up 13 per cent on this time last year,” trusted right-hand-man of almost 20 years, Nick Tsalikis, says.

Bodkins stocks plenty of quality footwear for women, but steers away from anything that will date in a couple of months.

“We have to buy more safe shoes,” Mr Bodkin says.

Which isn’t to say unfashionable, as a perusal of the shelf shows, with gorgeous shoes and boots for men and women, including a fantastic range of American cowboy boots.

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Hard as it is to believe in these days of cheap overseas manufacturing, some are made in WA: “Anastazi Boots…better than RM Williams, which are made in China.”

A particularly attractive pair was of a soft and lustrous kangaroo, “one of the highest tensile leathers in the world,” Mr Bodkin says.

Close to retirement he’s not sure what the future holds: “I started in mind that I would walk away someday, but the kids are not interested, even though I bred them specifically [to take over],” he smiles.

by JENNY D’ANGER

Bodkins Bootery
72 High Street, Fremantle
open 7 days

Herald Ad #3, April - May 2016 20 David Giles 10x7

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