Vince DeVito Shoes —Keeping Customers Happy for 90 Years
There’s something special about Nelson that attracts people looking for a more personal approach, especially when it comes to local businesses.
The whole idea of keeping things “local“ and supporting small business is a huge aspect of living in Nelson.
Despite the inescapable presence of big box stores like Wal-Mart and Mark’s Work Warehouse, people around the Heritage City work very hard to seek out and support the little guy.
Nothing personifies this more than Vince DeVito Shoes, a fourth-generation, family run business celebrating its 90th year in April 2016.
Descending from a line of Italian immigrants, Vince and his sons Matt and Joel carry on a line of care and tradition for footwear that their great-grandfather started nearly 100 years ago.
Originally found in Trail, the DeVito family business has now been in Nelson for 36 years.
“Vince moved here (to Nelson) in 1980 and opened up on Baker Street before making the move to our current location in 1995. . .. We are four generations of shoemakers or cobblers,” said Matt DeVito.
“It’s nice to have the whole family background, it makes the online customer more comfortable sending their shoes here. Ok I’ve seen the YouTube videos, I can see Matt and Vince’s face on the website, these are real people and have been doing it how long,” he continued.
Matt, who was raised in Nelson, going to school before graduating from L.V. Rogers, didn’t always work for at the 400 Hall Street location.
In 2008-09 he was offered a job in the bush with the BC Forest Service.
However, after being warned by several veterans about the toll it would take on his body, Matt decided he’d rather work with his hands than with his back.
After receiving a call from his father offering him work at the store, Matt left the woods and began working with his Dad. Matt said that his time in the forest gave him an insider’s knowledge about what kind of footwear folks in that line of work were looking for.
“It gave me a good sense and helps me today to sell work boots because I’ve actually worn them; how they fit how they feel, what they’re looking for in terms of different sole options on the footwear etc.,” said Matt, an avid hockey player growing up in Nelson.
Matt’s brother Joel joined up during the Fall of 2015.
He had been working as a butcher at the Fisherman’s Market for several years while also working one day a week at the store. Once the mail-in shoe repair facet of the business really took off, Joel decided he’d rather work with the family.
“We needed the help and I said if you want to switch careers and give this a go there’s room for you,” Matt said of his brother, also a grad of LVR, who enjoyed playing basketball.
“Lots of opportunity for growth here and we needed the extra hand. He has a good head on his shoulders for what we’re doing and is a perfect fit at the end of the day.”
A major focus for the DeVito boys isn’t just the sale of shoes. In conjunction with the pedorthic clinic next door, which is handled by Vince, DeVito’s shoes will walk you through the entire process. Not only will they sell you shoes, they’ll also fit, customize and repair your footwear.
“There’s the pedorthic clinic, custom orthotics, foot assessment, gait analysis; Vince handles the pedorthic side of the business. Your one stop for everything foot related,” said Matt.
“We offer huge selection, specialty fittings, taking the time that’s why people come to us. We’re catering to the one customer twice, buying then fixing the footwear.”
However, like any business looking to stay competitive and relevant, DeVito’s has had to expand to the online market. This tiny shop in a quirky small town in the Kootenays now handles repairs from all over the province, including Kamloops, Vancouver and even the Island.
“We’re probably the biggest shoe repair in western Canada, so we’ve got big companies looking at us right now,” Matt explained.
Viberg boot manufacturing out of Victoria are starting to send all their repairs to us, and Redwing shoes is in the process of making us an authorized repair depot for Canada.
“We’ve definitely revamped our whole shoe repair; we can take on 80-100 pair a week at this point.”
At the end of the day though, it’s all about community. What Nelson provides for DeVito’s, the company tries to give back.
“I think the community has been very good to us, but we also donate back to the community doing fund raisers, we do something for breast cancer once a year, we also do a hotdog sale in the fall and 10 percent of net sales on customer appreciation day go back to the food cupboard,” said Matt.
Although the company is growing and its online presence is gaining traction, the family is aware of its roots and aims to keep things friendly, local and personal.
“We’re going to see where things go and keep doing what we’re doing,” said Matt.
“We’ve put the time in with the customer; we’re knowledgeable with the products. People trust us and we’re not going to stop doing that just because we cater more to the province now doesn’t mean we’ll cater less to the people walking into the snow.”