Kenneth Cole deals in trench coats and leather goods, but occasionally truth, like:
The average woman falls in love seven times a year… Only six are with shoes.
Brooke Beals, the new proprietor of Magnolias, the downtown shoe store which did not ever close but changed owners this summer, swears by TOMS, specifically maroon classics, although she’s also crushing on Hush Puppies and Free People (yes — they make shoes) and Frye boots, which are for people who love horses, just not enough to touch them.
Before August, Beals was nothing without her purple sneaks and her North Face flip flops, however, as she zoomed all over heaven chasing 11-year-olds who play Jenga, among other tasks that befit an executive director of the Boys & Girls Club.
She’d worked in nonprofit youth development her entire career, and she was feeling a bit burned out.
“I have a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old and I just think I was giving the best version of myself to other peoples’ kids,” Beals said. “I needed to do something for me, something that could use my creative side.”
Terrified at the prospect of starting from scratch, Beals did a little Googling. What if she bought a pre-existing business, already established and doing well?
While there were several options that popped up in her browser, Magnolias was the only one with a name and address listed, which basically sealed its fate. Beals didn’t want to poke around and scare employees at other island establishments with awkward questions, like, “Is this joint for sale? Are you soon to be unemployed? Where your boss-woman at?”
So they met for coffee, Beals and Jacquie Hannibal.
And now Creedence Clearwater Revival fills the shop and Beals is that friendly overasker who stops strangers on the street to find out what kind of pump and bag and sweater vest they’re wearing.
“I’m constantly looking,” she said.
Personally, she reps Margaret M, a Canadian brand she carries in the store. She rocks their patterned pants, but also sells solids, just because she doesn’t want to be too extreme.
With the shoe business, there will be both downsizing and expansion. Blue Island Shoes is closing, so Beals will pick up their most popular lines, Corky’s and Lucky Brand. But she’ll eliminate lines that Soul Mates sells.
“I want to be the kind of store that’s really complementary to the other stores here,” she said. “So if someone walks in and says, ‘Do you sell Birkenstocks?’ I’ll be like, ‘No! But SoulMates does.’”
Most of these changes won’t take effect until spring, since retail merchandising happens months in advance, but Beals was so crazy about Hush Puppies’ new desert boots that she stocked them anyway. She also sped ahead with jewelry, coincidentally all made by Portland hands: brass triangle necklaces and folding fan-esque earrings by Betsy & Iya, if we’re name dropping.
But this isn’t that kind of place, really, where it matters who you’re wearing. The importance of the label is only as reference, to recall you liked whatever Mabel or Synergy or Staccato made.
Beals’ emphasis is on cuteness, sure, but not for runway rails. She’s a mom, after all, and she can appreciate a pair of pants that have “slimming” in the title, especially if they cost less than a thrice-weekly grocery bill.
So, if you have a kid that’s begging for a nap, and you just don’t think you have the endurance for a little me time, you might be wrong just this once. Take your trip downtown. You can count on Beals. She’ll pull out the toys, that Hannibal always stowed underneath the couch, and you can have your chevron blouse. Peace and fashion, for a moment.
As the children say — her children, Evie and Gray — it’s mommy’s new club.