Dion Bullock always knew this was what she wanted to do. She’s the owner of Shoe Groupie, the Uptown Oakland footwear shrine, and is a consummate lover of all things shoes. Shoe Groupie is going strong again in its Broadway Street location after a few months of downtime, change, and reinvention, so I stopped by to check out what was new!
Footwear is in her blood: her grandmother was a shoemaker from England (how Dickensian!) who also dabbled in upholstery and coats. Dion herself was born in St. Louis, grew up around the Bay Area, and spent years harboring dreams of opening her own shoe store while working retail. And finally, she took a step towards that dream with Shoe Groupie’s first incarnation: an online shop.
“What I liked about running the store online was that I wasn’t competing with huge retailers like Macy’s, so I could feature the kind of unique shoes that you could never find there,” she said. She could focus on having a smaller, funkier selection by designer that those retailers might not take a chance on.
After the website’s success, Dion was able to rent a storefront in 2012, and the rest is well-shod history. Not that it was always easy. “This is definitely a labor of love,” she said, laughing. She’s temporarily renting out a corner of the store space to a fashion pop-up shop while things at Shoe Groupie settle down.
If there’s a purposeful quality behind what gets featured at Shoe Groupie, it’s that everything is hand-picked by Dion and is perfectly to her own taste. “Everything I have here, I would wear personally,” she said, and, to prove it, popped her high-heel-clad foot out from behind the counter, then pointing to the corresponding shoe on the shelf.
Dion ensures that everything at Shoe Groupie falls into the 3 C’s: cute, comfy and chic. (We agreed that “chic” definitely counts, pronunciation be damned.)
I’m too excited to not start off with the raddest shoe I’ve seen in a month of Sundays.
I give you: this barbed-wire badass, a work of art by designer Jeffery Campbell.
Every detail is baller: check out those heels.
I’m not the only one who was impressed, either: as I was taking photos, a woman entered the store, took one look at these shoes, and made the kind of face usually only seen in smutty films. “Where do I find those?” she said urgently, and made a beeline to Dion for help finding her size.
Have you ever wondered what shoes the ladies of San Mateo go crazy for? Wonder no more: Dion informed me that these darling sling backs were her top seller when she took Shoe Groupie on the road there.
This puts me in the strange position of being on the same page as the upstanding citizens of San Mateo. It’ll probably never happen again.
I love that there’s a variety of shoe styles here: stilettos confound me, although they look fine as hell on any lady who feels up to wearing them. A nice compromise is the stacked heel, and there are plenty of those:
But not just any ordinary stacked heel. Check out that mirrored action!
In spite of my underwhelming stature, I’m not much of a heels-wearer, so I was pleasantly surprised to find adorable flats here in addition to killer skyscrapers. These? I would totally wear. And they’re only $30!
Dudes and the large-footed: you aren’t left out either.
Oh, yeah, and there are some pretty sweet purses, too:
If skull-themed brass knuckle metallic clutches aren’t your thing then I think you just made my frenemy list. However, I’ll throw you a bone, with these chic little wicker numbers:
And here’s a nice pop of color for your autumn wardrobe:
Although local shoes are awesome, it’s understandably hard to find them. One doesn’t really become a cobbler on a whim. So most of the shoes, while fabulous in other ways, aren’t from local artisans. But the jewelry selection definitely is, and Dion plans on keeping it that way. She also focuses on keeping all of the jewelry super-affordable: almost nothing on that table costs more than $25.
These mesmerizing earrings caught my eye: my photo is not quite life-size, but almost. They’re gloriously large and in charge.
There’s also a small but chic selection of clothes: Dion mentioned that she wanted to have a few options available if a customer wanted to curate an entire last-minute look around her shoes. Some of it is clubby, some fashionably schlubby (in a hip, slouchy sweater way.)
The art on the walls is usually local, and changes every two to three months. Dion explained, “When I was opening the store in 2012, there was a huge art scene exploding in Oakland. So I knew I wanted to showcase some local artists here.” The bright, bold, and pretty damn sexy paintings we’re seeing here are by Malik Seneferu, of North Richmond.
Finally, here’s some good news if you totally heart shoes, but can’t get to uptown Oakland right this minute: Shoe Groupie is going back to its roots and becoming an online store again! It’s still staying in this retail space, too, so you get the best of both worlds. Keep your eyes on this space, shoe-lovers: it’s just going to keep getting bigger and better.