Footwear Crush sparks new Kirkland shoe business
By M.J. HOECHERL
Kirkland Reporter UW News Lab
August 9, 2012 · Updated 12:50 PM
When Rhonda Herbert was asked about how she went from traveling the world with her significant other while doing medical research, to living on a sailboat in the San Juans, to opening a shoe store in Kirkland, her answer was simple: “I love shoes. I’ve always had a passion for shoes. The right shoes not only complete an outfit, but they can boost our confidence and the way we feel about ourselves.”
Rhonda met Neal Hughes in 2009 at a bookstore in Seattle. At that time, she worked as a clinical-trial manager and he was an entrepreneur (he has owned a variety of businesses). Soon after, Herbert decided to take some time off from her work in biotech and pursue one of their shared passions: sailing.
The two lived on a sailboat and explored the Broughton Archipelago in British Columbia. It was then that she became interested in learning the ins and outs of constructing a website.
“Neal helped me to learn about websites and online marketing, and I helped him to learn about the world beyond sneakers. We also realized we love working together,” she said. “Looking back, the transition seemed so natural. From my desire to find a creative outlet (web design) to starting an e-commerce site selling shoes, and now opening a shoe store.”
Their online site has been in business since October of 2010.
Like many online businesses, they initially outsourced their order fulfillment to a warehouse that stored their shoes, while maintaining an average of 4.7 stars out of five in customer satisfaction. One customer in May commented, “Thanks so much for the extraordinary customer service - the phone call, the twitter shout-out. You guys are great. I’ll definitely keep you all in mind next time I’m shoe shopping.”
Another customer, in 2011, remarked, “You’ve gone above and beyond to ensure good quality.”
The success of their e-commerce site fueled a desire to open their own brick-and-mortar storefront.
At first, they rented office space in the San Juan Islands. But eventually they decided to bring their business - and residence - to a more communal region. With this in mind, they felt Kirkland would be the perfect fit.
“We researched many locations to start a shoe store, and we realized we wanted to locate our store in an area that had a sense of community. Kirkland is just far enough from the city, and has a small-town feel to it,” Hughes said. “We have chosen to make it the location of our store as well as our home.”
Herbert feels that the name of their store, Crush Footwear, speaks for itself.
“We wanted a name that was feminine and that also conveyed a love of shoes. A crush is a romantic attachment, a longing, or a desire - for many women - and this relates to shoes,” she said.
The store is anticipating a soft opening in early August in order to prepare for its grand opening several weeks later, and is located at 339 Kirkland Ave.
For more information, visit their website at www.crushfootwear.com
M.J. Hoecherl is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.