The Red Pair – The most soul per sole in town

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
April 21st, 2010

The for sale sign came down, the work began and just a few months after it was purchased the old Bank of Montreal building is slowly coming back to life. On April 15th Stephanie Robinson officially opened up shop where the barber used to be in the lower level of the Washington and Columbia corner. The first new business back in the building has brought a fresh clean look to the heritage space and ushered her new shoe store “The Red Pair” onto the Rossland shopping scene.

While task forces look to attract the nomadic entrepreneur, this momtrepeneur is charging into action with her own small business. Coming off a break from working part time with the City of Rossland and raising two children, Robinson found a need and has brought a level of excitement in filling it.

“I started playing around with business plans and other ideas and just abused my friends asking them what they thought of them [laughs].The business plan that seemed the most feasible was the shoe store, so I ran with it.”

After a year spent planning, organizing, making connections and finding a home for the new business, the Red Pair opened last week to many congratulations from friends and curious folk who keeping the shop hopping.

The space itself has seen a tremendous facelift and upgrade, shaking the dust off an aging beauty. Most remarkable in the makeover are the original floors, which have been brought back from wear and tear to a literally shining example of heritage restoration. New electrical, white washed walls, plank board walls and a few heritage style decor pieces have brought the space into the 21st century while keeping the character of the old building intact.

“There were huge challenges to the space. It was gross [laughs], literally gross. I hired Josh Swain, who is this amazing carpenter-type guy. He looked at it and was like, ‘this is going to be beautiful’ and I was like, ‘are you sure? Have you seen these floors?’. He guaranteed that it was going to work out. When the floors were done, I almost cried.

Building on an idea picked up from a shoe store in Invermere while at a ski race in Panorama, Robinson’s vision for the store was refined a step further.

“When I saw it, I thought. ‘this is not what I was thinking, but this is definitely the way to go, I really like this idea’. All of their boxes were all out on the floor so people could kind of help themselves.”

The concept of the store was simple: sell comfortable shoes that people in the Kootenays would want to buy. Every thing Robinson sells has a story to it. Be it an environmental tale or one of humanitarian relief, she believes in shoes that believe in doing the right thing.

“I try to get as many lines as possible that have some level of self-consciousness to them. Like Jamboo–their soles are recycled material. Tom’s shoes over there: when you buy one pair they send one pair to a person in need somewhere all over the world. The El Naturalistas are all made and stained with vegetable dies. They are a total humanitarian company. When Haiti had their earthquake they sent over 3,500 pairs of shoes. Pretty incredible. The lady that designed our sunglasses is the same lady who designed the Olympic medals, so everything in here has some kind of a story to it.”

Going into business on her own for the first time, Robinson faced many of the common challenges, not the least of which was making the leap of faith, taking her career into her own hands.

“The biggest challenge was probably me. ..Just that doubt that every once in a while…You get these doubts where you just have to breath and trust in your plan that it’s going to work.”

Smiling and clearly loving her new venture one week into it, it’s hard to discern whether the character of the building is reflecting in her or if her energy and personality are filling the space; either way, the new shop exhibits a lot of soul per sole. 

“I’m loving it day to day right now, and I just hope that five to ten years from now, I’m still here everyday loving it!”


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