‘The shoe must go on’

Tami Paine poses inside Oh Pair! shoes on August 24, 2018 (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

Quarks decided to close, so Tami Paine is striking out on her own

Ten years ago, Tami Paine was moving to Prince Albert from Calgary and needed to find work. She looked for a job online and found one for a store called Quarks.

She didn’t know what a Quarks was, but soon learned it was a shoe store. She had previous retail sales experience and applied.

“I applied. I kind of pushed myself in with the interview because we were moving here anyway,” Paine said.

She was hired on the spot.

“I came back on my own dime, hired all my staff and ran the store. I loved working in shoes.”

Paine opened the doors of the store in May 2008.

Nine years later, in July of 2017, Quarks told her their ten-year lease at the Gateway mall was done, and they were going to shutter the store.

“They gave me six months in lieu of severance,” she recalled.

“I could have left. I could have gone somewhere else and worked, but this was my store. I loved it, I love my customers and I love my staff. I thought to myself, I opened the doors in 2008, I will close them in 2018. I will be the last one to lock the doors.”

When Paine received the news that the store would close, she wasn’t sure what she would do next.

“My customers were beside themselves,” she said.

“They were sad, which made me emotional because they were my customers for 10 years. I’ve seen them at least once a week. I was emotional, I was upset and I didn’t know what I was going to do.”

Paine was also afraid no one would hire her because of ageism. It was her husband who suggested they open their own shoe store.

He said ‘who better knows shows than you,’” Pine remembered. “’You’ve been doing it for ten years.’

Paine was apprehensive.

“I said ‘there’s more to it than just selling shoes.’ He supported me. He encouraged me. I give him total credit for sitting here today waiting for stock to roll in so I can open my doors in a week and a half.”

Paine, motivated by her husband’s encouraging words, will celebrate the grand opening of her new store, Oh Pair! Shoes, from September 3-8. The store is located in the same spot Quarks used to operate and will feature some of the same brands.

“I’ve learned so much, on how to put styles together, colour stories together and what my audience wants and is asking for,” Paine said.

“I learned a lot working with Quarks knowing what they don’t like because it didn’t sell, to knowing what is tried and true. I went to the shoe shows and did all my own buying, which is a chore. It’s so stressful. I thought it would be fun.”

While many of her customers’ old favourites will be in stock once Oh Pair opens, Paine is trying a few new lines, including one by an independent Canadian designer who specializes in wide-calf boots.

“We have a lot of customers who have athletic calves, and they’re hard to fit.,” she explained.”

The reception so far has been positive. Paine’s old clients are excited their shoe store is opening u again, and Paine has already had people trying to purchase her wares, even though the store isn’t quite ready to open up again.

“I told (the customers) as I was selling out of the last Quarks stuff that we were going to open our own. They were like ‘Thank god, I’m so happy,’” Paine said.

The customer reception led Paine to her store’s new slogan: the shoe must go on.

“I’m excited, I’m nervous, I’m overwhelmed — I’m a lot of things. But mostly I’m excited.

“I just didn’t want to give up on P.A. There are too many things closing, and we need things opening. And, we need shoes.”