Dana Joy Altman never planned to get into the family business. That changed last December, when the PR specialist and freelance writer made her first visit to the storage spaces below Altman’s Men’s Shoes and Boots (120 W Monroe St, 312-332-0667), the store her grandfather began in 1932 and that’s now run by her father, Marty, and sister, Jackie Delott.
“I couldn’t believe what I found,” Altman says. In the maze of 22 rooms among the hissing pipes and generators of the 1893 Financial District building’s basement, Altman estimates there are some 15,000 pairs of men’s shoes dating from the ’70s to the ’90s, all preserved in their original boxes. And not just any shoes: Altman’s is known for carrying top name brands, including Alden, Bostonian, Allen Edmonds, Cole Haan and Timberland.
“Every season my dad would buy a lot of shoes,” Altman explains. “So over the years he would collect the ones that didn’t sell in the storerooms, and he never got around to getting rid of them.”
Now, getting rid of Dad’s shoes is exactly what Altman is doing with Altman’s Legacy, the eBay shop she created in June. She’s been spending hours in the vaults familiarizing herself with the stock.
There’s the “boot room,” which holds about 1,000 pairs made from such exotic skins as stingray, kangaroo and wildebeest. The “black-and-white room” is filled with handmade spectator shoes, classic loafers and slip-ons, some from European brands no longer in business. Then there are the multicolored, hand-stitched espadrilles from Bally and vintage tennis shoes (Jimmy Connors Converse leather sneakers, anyone?).
“I’m giving these shoes a way out of the darkness of the basement,” she says. “These beautiful shoes deserve a good home.”
Expect to find 20 new listings on Altman’s eBay site per week, including the dead-stock gems pictured above she exhumed.