Home Business St. Croix business @Work: Mike's Custom Sandals

@Work: Mike's Custom Sandals


Dec. 23, 2004 – Leather crafter Mike Alphonse of Mike's Custom Sandals is back on the island and ready to custom-design sandals for the person who appreciates fine leather and the perfect fit. The comfort of sandals specially crafted to fit is important whether you are a visitor walking in Christiansted and beachcombing or a local looking for style and comfort.
Alphonse was raised on St. Croix and learned the leather craft 20 years ago from Nancy Hennessey, who saw him as a natural for leather working. Hennessey owned and operated Nancy's Leather Company. "Mike you need to learn a trade, you learn this and you will make a lot of money," Hennessey said. So far he says he seems to be on that track.
Mike had been off-island for a few years selling hip-hop clothing to celebrities in California. He came back to the island and his roots, opening his current store at 1000 King Street four months ago. He started operating out of a little kiosk across the walkway on King's Alley but found the kiosk too small for his growing business. When his current location became available, he jumped on it. His wife Ivy is now operating Ivy's Ice Cream out of the kiosk.
Alphonse begins designing sandals by tracing the shape of feet on paper. He includes any special aspects of the customer's feet, such as special arch shapes. Wedges, lifts and arch supports can also be incorporated in the sandals. The soles are made of cushioned crepe for comfort. Alphonse uses only the best cowhide and lambskin, which he gets from California.
Alphonse also designs high-quality leather belts of all sizes.
He also creates what he calls "Custom Kicks," using Nike Air Force Ones, Dunks and Jordans to create one-of-a-kind sneakers. Alphonse will airbrush almost any design on the sneakers. Or he can take apart the sneakers and put any material on the shoe. He has done designer fabrics, leather and school-uniform material. Sneakers may be brought in or he has Air Force ones in stock.
The sandals range in price from $68 to $110, while the Custom Kicks can be higher because of the cost of the sneaker. Alphonse will design sandals and Custom Kicks for men, women and children.
I. M. Leather Boutique is also located in Alphonse's store, which is operated by Alphonse and his wife. They have a large selection of top quality leather bags from California for women and men. They have all sizes and shapes of backpacks, fanny packs and totes for travelers, students, commuters, campers and athletes. They carry handbags, wallets, messenger bags and briefcases. For people with back problems, they also have "body bags" that are comfortable to carry. The leather goods range in price from $25 to $248.
Within the last month Alphonse said he has noticed business has picked up, but at this point most of his business is around 60 percent local and 40 percent tourists. Alphonse says, "I get a lot of window shoppers because I leave the shutters open and people return. I would suggest all the merchants leave their shutters open to increase business. Couples may be out to dinner in the evening and women say, ‘Honey I really like that purse.'" The man will usually come back and get the purse as a surprise for the lady. He says people actually thank him for the chance to window shop. Alphonse says he would also like more shops open on Sunday like his is, from 11a.m. to 4 p.m. His regular hours are Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
To find out more about what Alphonse has to offer call 277-0603.


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