Blogs > News-Herald Food and Travel

Food and travel captivate Janet Podolak, who chronicles both for The News-Herald. Get the back story of her three decades of stories here. Guest bloggers and fellow News-Herald staffers also periodically share details of their trips.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Shoe shopping in Toronto

Shoe designer Jeff Brodawka tells my friend Melanie how his shop Browawka & Friends came to be.

If I didn't have bunions I probably would have bought shoes during my recent visit to Toronto.
While ambling down Queen Street West with two longtime Torontonian women pals, we stopped to look in the window at Brodawka & Friends, a stylish shoe shop.
Contrasting colors and textures transformed the footwear on display into works of art and we were nowhere near the Bata Shoe Museum, a must attraction in Toronto for any shoe lover.
The spare and modern minimalist shop displayed the shoes on pedestals to showcase them for those choosing to walk around and view them from all angles.
One pair sported bright blue laces with a lipstick red  tongue and soles, with heels tottering into the stratosphere.
Bunions, I'm afraid, are destined to keep me in flat soled shoes until I make a leap, as my friend Cathy did, into the world of foot surgery.
When we stepped into the shop for a closer look we met Jeff  Brodawka, a hands-on type of guy who is the proprietor. More fashion conscious than I am, my Canadian friends recognized the name John Fluevog, with whom Jeff had long worked in Vancouver. But now he's back home in Ontario and opened his store in June.
My ears perked up when he told us that his travels to Mexico helped to inspire his venture in Toronto.
"I work with a small factory in Leon, the epicenter of leather and shoe-making," he told us.
I knew that Leon is the hometown for many of Painesville's Mexican natives, and that lots of them left the tanneries of Leon to pursue new jobs in Lake County's nursery businesses. Quite a few of them have since become American citizens and operate restaurants and work in other businesses in the area.
"They have tanneries, molders and designers all in one city and I really liked what I saw," Brodawka said. Working with the shoemakers, designers and leatherworkers in Leon, he chooses the colors and textures of leather for his stylish shoes and brings them to Toronto, where they are being well received despite their $200 and up pricetags.
He also imports linen socks from Japan and designs wool and cotton ties which he sells at the shop. It's at  1114 Queen Street West in case you want to take a look for yourself.
My June visit was research for a story about Toronto's newly evolved food scene which you'll be able to read about on Sept.9. Catch it a day earlier online.

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