When Derek Newnes and his wife Cathy walked into Searle’s Shoes 25 years ago, they knew it was the right fit for the next step in their careers.
“I never even really thought that was 25 years (ago),” said Newnes who purchased the store following a 23-and-a-half year long career as a buyer of shoes and accessories for Woodward’s Department Stores.
When the department store was going into receivership, Newnes realized it was time for him to find another job.
“I decided I better go out and buy myself a job,” he said with a laugh.
After talking to some peers, he found out Searle’s Shoes was up for sale.
The couple purchased the store in May 1994 and began to grow their inventory.
“There’s always changes – nothing stands still. But in terms of styles, people think they change, but they really don’t – it’s more of a newer version of a shoe.”
Fashion is cyclical, noted Newnes, and right now, he said ‘70s-styles of shoes are in, but added major cycles fluctuate about every 10 years.
“When I started, ladies dress shoes were very important to have in store.”
While the couple has owned the store for the last quarter-century, Searle’s has been a downtown Courtenay fixture since 1918, beginning with owner Jas E. Aston who had been running a shoe repair on the premise and decided to carry a small stock of shoes.
The business was sold a handful of times between 1929 and 1993, even exchanging hands during the early 1950s with Sid Williams, whom he partnered with A.T Searle, and Archie Welsh to purchase the store.
Throughout the past 25 years, Newnes explained what keeps the store successful – particularly with the internet and online shopping – is listening to their customers and maintaining a high level of customer service.
He said he understands the appeal of ‘fast fashion,’ but he aims to sell better quality products that will last a long time.
In celebration of their anniversary, Searle’s Shoes is hosting a birthday sale starting on May 7 with all of their footwear offered at 20 per cent off. Searle’s Shoes is located at 250 Fifth St. in Courtenay.