Our sixth entry in the Vegan Biz Profile series is Nice Shoes, an all-vegan shoe store in Vancouver, BC owned and operated by Joanne Chang (pictured, hugging shoes).
Tell us about Nice Shoes.
We are the first all vegan shoe store in Vancouver, BC Canada. We sell online as well as at our store located on Fraser Street & 19th Avenue. We’re vegan/activist owned and operated. We exist mainly to fill a void in the Canadian vegan community (oh and of course to CRUSH the leather industry!!). Prior to our opening, Canadians have to go across the border to get decent vegan footwear or order online and pay a bunch of unnecessary customs fees and shipping. To ease the burden on Canadian shoppers, we offer free shipping across Canada for any orders over $100.
What great new items do you have for people buy this holiday season?
There’s too much to mention! Our hottest sellers right now are the Snug Boots by Vegetarian Shoes, they’re basically Ugg boots without the cruelty. Harvey’s Seat Belt Bags are beautiful purses made of seat belts. Jaan no silk satin skinny ties. Dansko rain shoes – perfect for the rainy Vancouver weather and approved by the American Podiatric Association for comfort. We also have great stocking stuffers like A Sent of Scandal Candles, Go Max Go chocolate bars and Truth belts.
You can check out our full Holiday Gift Guide here!
What’s been the biggest challenge of being a vegan retailer that sells online as well as at a brick-and-mortar shop?
Each aspect presents a different challenge. As a brick-and-mortar, we had to find a an affordable location within the city of Vancouver. This means opening up shop in a non-shopping district. Although we are on a major bus route and within 10 minutes walking distance from a very popular shopping area (Main Street), people have trouble wrapping their heads around coming here to shop. We also do not get much foot traffic.
As an online retailer, we find that people are apprehensive about shopping online for shoes due to the fit. In order to ease the minds of our customers, we offer free shipping and one free ship back for size exchanges. It’s not a profit making offer, but we are happy to help our customers get what they need.
There’s got to be a story behind the guitar straps in your store. They have their own specific top-level category in the shop and you have 12 options! Are you aiming to be the world’s foremost retailer of vegan guitar straps?
Actually, there’s not much behind it! We (my husband & I) have been vegans for nearly 20 years and Couch Guitar Straps is just one of those companies that has been around since the days when only a handful of vegan businesses existed. Couch straps and belts are hand sewn by vegan guitarists in downtown LA and they use upcycled car seat vinyl – how cool is that? They make such cool guitar straps, we can’t help wanting all of them. We also hear all the time from our guitar playing customers that it’s nearly impossible to find vegan guitar straps. So this is a win-win!
Tell us about a favorite vegan shop of yours that others may not know about.
I’d like to give a plug to a soon-to-be vegan shop. In 2012, Fairy Cakes, a vegan cupcake store is going to open up two doors down from us! Besides being vegan, Fairy Cakes caters to people with food allergies. And for the salt lovers, they will also be carrying savory cupcakes!
That said, if anyone out there would like to join us on Fraser Street, we are not opposed to the idea of being a part of a Canadian vegan mini mall. Just thought I’d throw this out there…