IT’S one small step for Bob’s Shoe Store, one giant leap for footwear as it moves to a new-look shop on Market Street.
Owner Bob says they have been at the same spot in Fremantle for 34 years, and planned to close earlier this year when their lease ran out.
“I’m in my 70s now and didn’t want to go on; Fremantle is not what it used to be in many respects,” Bob says.
But his enthusiasm was re-kindled following talks with landlord Gerard O’Brien, whose company Silverleaf Investments is redeveloping the Woolstores, the Manning Buildings and several other heritage-listed properties around town.
“He could see the potential of Fremantle,” Bob says.
The new store has a “modern” 1950s look with raw brick walls, polished concrete floors and a space-age chandelier.
Rows of snappy shoes are perched on streamlined shelves, and there a retro couch to try them on and funky mirrors to see how they look.
“We’re keeping it mid-century modern, rather than the old ‘50s diner,” Bob says.
“If we’re going to stay we have to keep the essence of great shoes, in a new way.”
Bob joined the merchant navy as a 16-year-old in 1956, and it was during a voyage to California that a life-long love affair with 1950s pop-culture was born.
Hailing from sleepy Fremantle, he was in awe of the vibrancy of American culture, including black and white TV (WA didn’t get it until 1959), coca-cola, flashing neon signs and the music of Elvis, Chuck Berry and Aretha Franklin.
On extended shore leave in California, a young Bob began helping out at a shoe store beside the beach.
Having learned the “art of the shoe” he headed home, got married and opened a shoe store that showcased everything he loved about the US.
Shortly after opening Bob launched his own brand Nu by Neo, a high-fashion shoe designed for maximum comfort and made under licence in Spain.
Bob’s has outlets in Fremantle, Broome and Margaret River.
by JENNY D’ANGER
Bob’s Shoe Store
50 Market Street