I am of the school of thought that one cannot have too many pairs of shoes. With all the colors, styles, and types (Heels! Boots! Flats!), it’s a never-ending addiction that is fueled by Michelle Bouma and her downtown boutique. Mi Shoes is a shoe-fanatics dream. The walls are adorned with pictures from fashion magazines, and beautiful shelves are stocked full with the cutest and most diverse women’s shoe collection you can find (sorry menfolk). Michelle loves downtown Bellingham, and has spent many an afternoon with me and Lindsey on one of our great downtown patios, chatting away about our vibrant and growing community. Even though I know Michelle and love her dearly, I interviewed her for our blog so that you can love her too. And trust me, you’ll fall in love with this firecracker of a woman!
How long have you worked downtown?
I’ve been working downtown since….well….since I moved to Bellingham in Sept of 2000. I worked at Crusin’ Coffee for a few months while I was getting my bearings. Then started working at Terra Organica January of 2001, teaching dance lessons at Pacific Dance Company on Cornwall shortly there after and in the Summer of 2001, I also started working at Sojourn. I taught dance lessons for a few years and worked, managing Sojourn until Summer of 2005. That’s the summer I decided to open Mi Shoes!
Why did you open your store downtown?
I decided to open Mi Shoes downtown because I had fallen in love with downtown! I used to venture up to the ‘big city of Bellingham’ with my friends while I was in high school and I always liked Bellingham’s downtown vibe. Working for 4 years at Sojourn helped me to see first hand what the market was like downtown, and who my customer was going to be. The location next door opened up and I jumped at the opportunity! Within two months of the space becoming available…..I’d written a business plan, negotiated a lease, been on my first (and second) buying trips, remodeled the space from floor to ceiling and opened the door to Mi Shoes!!
What’s your favorite part of being downtown?
My favorite part of being downtown?? EVERYTHING!! I live, work and play downtown! I’m always on foot or on bike. I love running into people I know all over town! Bellingham has such a charming downtown, I am so proud to be part of it!
You’re also on the board for the Pickford. What drew you to that position, and what’s your favorite part about being on the board?
Yes, I’m on the Pickford Board! I was asked to be part of the board two years ago and it happened to be a time when I was trying to figure out how delve deeper into the downtown. Perfect timing! My favorite part of being on the board is being able to take part in the planning of the Pickford’s events. The Oscars party every winter is my favorite event!
What inspires you for your store? How do you find your unique inventory?
I find inspiration for Mi Shoes in everything. People watching….whiskey drinking….magazines….travel adventures….buying trips…antique shopping….online blogs….etc. There is so much creative information out there….it’s hard to put my finger on what really inspires me. My unique inventory is an eclectic mix of my taste and the taste of the customers I’ve grown to know and love. I have connections with brands near and far and I enjoy scouring little known places in cities that I travel to for business or pleasure.
What’s your personal favorite brand/designer?
I have so many favorites when it comes to brands and designers. My favorite shoe brands at Mi Shoes are Frye, Seychelles and Miz Mooz. Frye has been making shoes for 150 years….so they really know how to make a great shoe! Seychelles and Miz Mooz are a little more fashion oriented and both are comfortable, well made shoes. My favorite brands/designers outside of Mi Shoes are endless!! I am obsessed with Free People. Their styling and marketing are so on trend and mind-blowing! I am very tactile when it comes to shopping….it HAS to feel good, so I love brands like James Perse that make super soft t-shirts and jersey dresses.
Do you get the chance to work/collaborate with many other downtown businesses?
I love getting the chance to work and collaborate with other downtown business owners. My favorite collaboration took place from 2006-2009, myself and 3 other business owners (FourStarrs, Paris Texas and Paperdoll) started ProjectBHAM. An event that combined fashion, shopping and entertainment. The event was later downsized and turned into BeautyBAR. Businesses could set up a booth at the event and sell their clothing, accessories, make up, salon services, etc to women watching fashion shows, live music and sipping special drinks! The events were so popular!
What’s your favorite event the Partnership does?
My favorite event put on by the Partnership has to be Downtown Sounds! The turnout is insane! The entertainment is over the top! And the people watching is phenomenal!!! I also do love the sidewalk sales. I’ve been working the sidewalk sales since 2001 when I was managing Sojourn…..I look forward to them every year!
Can you do custom orders for individuals, wedding parties, etc?
Mi Shoes can special order most shoes we have in stock and even some that are not in stock. I work a lot with brides and their bridal parties to customize their wedding footwear! If there is ever a shoe that you see at Mi Shoes that you are interested in a different size or color….ASK! Chances are we can get it for you! :)
Mi Shoes is coming up on its 10 year anniversary. What plans do you have for the next 10 years?
Has it been 10 years already!? Ha! Where does the time go!? It’s hard to believe I’ve been here that long. If the next 10 years pass as quickly as the last 10 I’d better put a plan into action! I have my wheels turning currently and am planning to unveil a new business very soon!!! I’m also very passionate about health and wellness and inspiring people to take care of themselves through healthy eating/cooking and exercise!! I can see myself getting more into this field down the road. I live a super healthy lifestyle and I want to help other people do the same. We only have one body to live in our entire life so we better start taking care of it now!!
Make sure you head on over to Mi Shoes at 1315 Railroad and stock up for Fall!