How do you go from teaching Math and Science in high school, to a full-fledged entrepreneur, with a specialty shoe store all of his own?
For Everton Dawes, the owner and manager of Casual Footwear, it’s a long story that evolved after years of “having a lot of trouble” finding shoes in his size in Bermuda.
And the solution led him to starting his own business that started from home, then moved next to Softy’s near Riddell’s Bay back in the 1990s, then moved to Parson’s Road on for nine years.
Now he’s located on Court Street in Hamilton just a few steps down from Fresh TV. And he has a massive following in specialised footware.
“We have had an increase in sales since the move, business is brisk, and we get a lot of foot traffic now that we’ve moved to a more central area.
“We also maintained our customer base, which is men and women in trades or services, people in uniforms, construction workers, medical professionals and I also have a few children, who get their shoes here,” said Mr Dawes.
“We also specialise in footwear for both men and women with foot problems, especially for Diabetes.
“They need shoes without seams, which means that the inside of the shoes are smooth and preferably real leather – something that breathes.
“They need that because neuropathy may set in over time and the person no longer has, or has limited feeling in their feet. And with that situation anything can cause damage to the feet, so they have to be very careful. So I do quite a bit of business with them.
“I carry Birkenstock, Propet, PW Minors, Thin Comfort and SAS – mostly European. The shoes for diabetics like Comforite is a popular brand because of the arch support,” he said.
“If your arch is messed up it affects your knees, hips and lower back; so the whole system gets out of alignment. So you need to make sure you have a good foundation.”
He also noted that “both the young and old are realising they need proper structure, especially when they’re on their feet a lot”.
As a former school teacher, he too, spent a lot of time on his feet and even more time trying to find shoes that fit him.
“I got involved in this business because I had a lot of trouble finding shoes in my size in Bermuda. I wear a size 15 shoe,” Mr Dawes said.
“Since opening, I’ve been serving customers with larger sizes from 16 up to size 17, that’s the biggest size I’ve sold here in men’s shoes. And I’ve had a few ladies come in for shoes up to size 13 and 14.
“There’s definitely a market here for big feet,” he said. “And if I don’t have it in stock, I can get it by special order – it only takes about two weeks.
“The youngest person with the biggest feet that I’ve seen come in, was a young male high school student who was wearing size 15 shoes at the time. My market is really teens to adults, age 18 and up,” he added.
“And the construction of the shoe really is one of my mainstays because we supply footwear to utility companies as well, like Belco, One, BTC, the Department of Parks and Public Works. We have a good clientele.”
The retired school teacher of more than 20 years, taught high school students at St George’s Secondary School, under principal Dale Butler, Warwick Secondary School under Patricia Holder, and at CedarBridge Academy under Kalmar Richards.
He also taught at Whitney Institute in Mathematics, Computer Science, Physics and Sciences.
“I starting importing Birkenstock from the US for my personal use and that turned into a home-based business. Then I made contact with shoe manufacturers in Germany, and the business grew out of my house.”
At one point, he said: “I sold 100 pairs of shoes a month from home. And up until two years ago I was doing both – teaching and selling shoes from home.”
He also attributed a big part of his success to the quality of the footwear he provides at Casual Footwear.
“They’re very durable, comfortable, you can actually wear them on a 9 to 5 job, we also have customers who work from 7 in the morning to 11 at night.
“So I know from experience that I’ve had major overtime. And some guys become brand loyal over time, which means that they won’t buy another brand of work shoes – they’ll wait for it to come in.”
Mr Dawes also works in tandem with a local podiatrist who refers her clients to Casual Footwear to find shoes that address their specific needs and ailments.
She had quite a bit to say on the impact of women wearing high heels on a regular basis, for extended periods, and the damage it causes along the way.
We’ll have that part of the story in part two of this report.