Relay: Choose Shoes

Every summer at the end of August, Shoe Inn has a warehouse sale

The big annual shoe sale is on. A huge room filled with tables of countless pairs of shoes is either your idea of hell or your idea of heaven. If you want to stop reading now, you are in the first category. If you are in the second, I really don’t need to preach to your choir, but if you are new to the area, here goes. 

Every summer at the end of August, Shoe Inn has a warehouse sale. (Closing day this year is Sunday.) Shoes are piled three deep in boxes under tables, and by that I mean three boxes deep by three boxes deep. The tabletops are solid shoeboxes, again three deep by another three deep by another three deep. You cannot see the floor under the tables and you cannot see the tabletops. (Heaven or hell, you decide.)

As for the very tidy aisles, well, they are full of people trying on shoes. The corners of the room are full of people sitting on the floor, surrounded by their finds (gigantic IKEA bags are made available for your shopping pleasure). These bags are large enough to hold a child or a dog or both. They encourage shopping by their very vastness.

And no, it is not chaotic. The shoeboxes are open and they are organized by size. The prices are clearly available on posters on the wall. Maybe your heart is racing with the thrill of the hunt.

Take a breath. 

Imagine you are in New York, waiting for the Jitney. Bored, you wander into a shoe store to kill time and decide to try on a pair of shoes. Any shoes, mostly because you get to sit down. This is a process that takes a while . . . sizes and then they have to go get the desired try-on, one pair at a time. Sigh. There is not much fun in that process. 

Consider instead a rainy day in the East Hampton area. Not a beach day. You and a friend want to go shopping. At this warehouse shoe sale, you are your own salesperson. In other words you can try on everything without bothering anyone. Note to shoppers: Wear old shoes that slip off easily, and prepare to sit or kneel on the floor (there are no chairs). 

Wonder what that gold leather gladiator sandal (with fringe) with the six-inch heel would look like on your foot? Go ahead, try it on. 

This is kind of like Loehmann’s in the old days (but you don’t have to get down to your skivvies).

You might have a fun conversation with a nearby tryer-onner. “How does this look?” you might ask, and she might wonder if the studded flats are “Brooklyn” enough. You use cellphones to take pictures and show each other how your feet look (there are no mirrors). 

You both might conclude that the gold sandals will not be good for walking on grass (or walking at all) and move on to another table. There are hundreds of shoes in your size. Now you might hate them and you might not fit into them, but playing dress-up is an activity many women embrace like a extra piece of pie.

That there is no one rushing you, that you can try on everything (and put it back in the box, neatly, please, in the right size area) without a hassle is just a delight. There are helpers who pretty much know if they have seen that plaid flat with the tassel in a buried box, and they will happily look for you, but otherwise you are on your own. 

For total newbies: Upon entering you are gobstruck. It feels like an acre of shoeboxes, all open, ready to be played with. When you regain your wits (and if you have not fled) you are offered the Ikea shopping bag. At first you demur. How could I buy that many shoes? Oh, wait, that bag makes it easier, doesn’t it? Ah, yes, it fits over my shoulder. And you are off to find your size. Or sizes, because everyone knows that not every size 9 fits the same way, and sometimes an 11 (!) in that shoe is a better fit. That 91/2 you normally wear might be a 10 or even a 9 depending on the shoe (try them both, silly girl). 

By the way, if you feel like trying on Ivanka’s made-in-China shoes, they are there, and if you want to feel like you are besties with the Kardashians, their shoes are there, too. 

And from your spot in front of the first table of size 10s you might hear, as I did, some pretty funny conversations. 

Gentleman of a certain age shopping with a lady-of-a-certain-age (LOACA): “Honey, you have tried on every shoe in your size. . . . Do you want to start over?”

A pair of millennials: “Those look great. Try these and these and these. . . . I already got those yesterday; this is my third visit.”

And echoing from every shoe-size section the repeating chorus of: “I love those.” “They look like hooker shoes” ( clearly a mother speaking). “I am getting them in every color.” “I love these.” “They will go with everything.” “I need something glitzy.” “I wanted them in red; well, maybe they’ll have them tomorrow.” (Note: They restock daily.) 

And: “Wow, I can walk in these.” “I cannot walk in these.” “ Too high.” “Perfect, I love them, thanks for finding them for me.” “My boyfriend would love these on me.” “Try and find it in a bigger (smaller) size, please, mom.” “I have to have these.” “You have to get those.” 

And finally, overheard from behind me while I waited to buy my (exact number deleted from text) shoes: “I will be buried in these shoes.”

Durell Godfrey is a contributing photographer for The Star and is also known as The Star’s Hunter-Gatherer in her frequent “Gimme” shopping columns.