Shoe Business: Q&A with Mack House Inc.

We are checking in with our friends in shoe-related businesses to find out how they got interested in shoes, where the journey running a niche business has taken them, and what the future holds in a post COVID-19 world.

AS ANSWERED BY JESS, Studio Director at Mack


Tell me about Mack House. How did the idea come about and when did you open?

Mack House is a self service sneaker studio where people come to customize their shoes. Anyone of any artistic ability can come and we’ll guide them through the process of customizing their very own  pair of sneakers!

Sneakers can sometimes fall into two categories - either super exclusive and hard to get, or very widely available. Not able to find what she was looking for, our owner Shelby started looking into customization. Realizing that what she wanted to see wasn’t hard to do, she got some supplies and started doing it at home - everything from colourways to simple drips and splatter designs.

Shelby also found that the process supported her mental health journey. She has a very busy job that can sometimes be around-the-clock. Working on her shoes helped her to take moments to clear her mind and she wanted to share those possibilities with others.

We opened in June of 2019 and it’s been such a ride so far -  we can’t wait to see what’s next!

Why do you think sneakers are so hot right now?

As it was in the 80s, sneakers represent a combination of hip-hop, basketball, and pop culture mixed into fashion. The rise of athleisure has meant that people are dressing for comfort. Being at home and seeing documentaries like The Last Dance remind us of the history and how important and iconic some of these silhouettes are.

Sneakers are also hot because there's competition happening. You have the younger generation wanting to get their hands on them for the status or the investment. They see how much retro pairs are worth and are often hoping to resell for a profit, if not to wear. Then you have the sneaker lovers of the 80s who maybe couldn’t afford them at the time, but can now. The re-release of these once one-of-a-kind pairs are giving them a chance to relive that love and revisit that moment in their history.

 

Who is your typical customer?

We don’t really have a typical customer, which is great. We have kids who love art, adults who just want to give it a try, and sneakerheads trying for those missed colourways. It really keeps the days exciting when we don’t know who or what ideas are going to walk through our doors.

Why do they want to customize their sneakers?

People want to customize for a million different reasons - that’s what makes customization so important. Some want to replicate sneakers they couldn’t buy or create sneakers with colours they can’t find. Some want to commemorate a moment in time, a place, or even a person important to them. Shoes provide us with another opportunity to express ourselves so why not?

Is there a favorite sneaker that people customize? Air Force 1? Converse All Star?

Many people choose to customize Nike Air Force 1 sneakers because it provides a lot of options. People can choose to design a new colourway with the defined panels, or even remove the swooshes and rework the look. It really depends on their idea and what they want to see.

How does your studio work? Walk me through the steps to customize a pair of sneakers.

Once guests arrive, we get them positioned at the table and have them start prepping their shoes. While that happens, we do a tour of the room so everyone knows what supplies we have and where they can be found.  Once we discuss what each guest’s idea is, we get everybody set up with the tools for their first step and it’s off to the races. We continue to float between guests to see how everyone is doing and help if we need to. And then at the end, we finish the shoe and accessorize!

 

Have you had to make any changes to your business because of COVID-19?

To ensure safety, we have reduced the number of clients per session and spread the sessions out to allow for a more thorough clean of the studio in between. We have a table barrier to keep clients separated and provide gloves and masks that are worn the entire time.

How do you think COVID-19 will impact the popularity of sneakers?

With the majority of people working from home, I think the popularity of sneakers will continue to rise. People don’t have to dress up to go to the office. Sneaker drops and website releases used to happen at all random hours, but now people are always on their computers instead of camped outside of stores. Online raffles are more accessible to everyone, whereas before you used to have to go to a store for a physical raffle ticket. It’s more convenient now!

 

How do you get the word out about Mack House? What has worked best for you?

Word of mouth has been a great source of business for us. We manage our online presence and try to showcase as much of the experience as possible, but you don’t feel the same energy unless you’ve met someone who’s tried it. Building on those relationships with our clients is a big part of what makes our community. We often have some of them come back to visit and do it all over again.

What gives you joy and satisfaction in your work?

Meeting our guests and seeing everyone’s creativity is so much fun. It helps to keep me inspired! And seeing the joy people have when they see their finished product and love it, there’s really nothing like it.

Thank you so much to Shelby from Mack House for taking the time for answer questions!

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