The brainchild of spouses Eads and Debby Poitevent -- who combined their respective skills in banking and retail with their contacts in the shoe industry to conceptualize a store where shoppers could find name- brand shoes offered at a discount -- Feet First is a name that locals know. These days, it's also a favorite Magazine Street destination for purchasing New Orleans-themed T-shirts and jewelry. With 5,000 square feet of space and a largely self-serve inventory of shoes, handbags, hats, jewelry and other accessories, Feet First is equipped to gratify customers with a little time and those with a lot. There's no waiting for clerks to reappear with your size, but there's no hurry either.
Since Katrina and the subsequent closing of the business's French Quarter location, the store has revamped its focus, and sales have been brisk. One store is now doing the volume that two used to do.
"We have more high-end and more local merchandise," says manager Evie Poitevent, who along with her brother, Sam, makes up the second generation of Poitevents to run the business. "We're buying smarter, and we're trying to be consistent about buying for a broad age range, from the middle schooler to the woman in her seventies."
For those who can't make it into the store, which is open seven days a week, Feet First recently redesigned its Web site (www.feetfirststores.com). The store carries about 50 footwear labels including Anne Klein, Michael Kors, Stuart Weitzman, Martinez Valero, Kate Spade, Van Eli, BCBG, Pelle Moda, Me Too, Luichiny, Dr. Scholl's, Daniblack, Enzo, Nine West, Pazzo, Aerosoles, Nina and others. There are also two new lines of white satin shoes -- don't miss the sweet ballet slippers for toddlers and kids -- that can be dyed for weddings and other special occasions.
New Orleans-inspired T-shirts (for babies and adults) by Leah Bauer, Dirty Coast and the Musician's Hurricane Relief Fund, along with Olivia Gallander's dog tag-like necklaces with sentimental New Orleans sayings, attract a steady flow of interest as well.
"We really like to tout the fact that we've reinvented ourselves post-Katrina," says Poitevent. "We've come back bigger and better. If you haven't been in the store for a while, stop by because you're guaranteed to have a nice surprise."