This article first appeared in OTTAWA Magazine May 2014.
Interviews by ERICA WARK
Photography by JESSICA DEEKS
Hair and makeup by Lauren McCarter and Anthonia Bejide
Shot on location at the Fairmont Château Laurier
Nikita and Sonia Vadher of Max’s Footwear Boutique and Cobbler
Erica Wark: I love the fact that Max’s is truly a family-run business. What made you decide to open a shoe repair shop and boutique?
Sonia Vadher: I was born and raised in England. In Europe, it’s all about unique fashion, and that’s what I wanted to bring to Ottawa. My husband grew up in Kenya and has been a cobbler since the age of 16. When we came to Canada in 2000, we decided to open up our own business. At first it was solely a shoe repair shop, but in 2011, we decided to start selling shoes we loved and believed in. Both my children, Nikita and Kishan, work with my husband and me — it’s wonderful!
EW: Nikita, you’re 19 now and helping out at the store. What’s it like having a mom who works in fashion and runs her own business?
Nikita Vadher: I’ve been working there for about two years now. My mom would bring home sample shoes as options to sell in the store. I loved all the colours and styles — plus, lucky for me, I’m sample size, so I got to try them all on and really appreciate them. I love working with her. I’m shy, and working with her in a retail setting has really helped me come out of my shell.
EW: What would you say is the most valuable lesson your mom has taught you?
NV: Treat people the way you would like to be treated. It works in all aspects of life, but in business, I’ve learned, it’s so important to make your customers feel comfortable, as if they’re being welcomed into your home. It’s about being polite and knowing your product so that you can best support your customer.
EW: Now that you’re both invested in the store, how do your different personal styles affect what you sell?
SV: I’m definitely more comfort-conscious. I’m on my feet all day and running around, so it’s important that customers who have similar lifestyles can wear shoes that last all day long.
NV: [Comfort is] usually the last thing on my list. I’d say my style is quite trendy with a European flair. I love colour and high heels. I also wear cute, feminine dresses with rugged ankle boots.
SV: We may have different taste in shoes, but that’s what makes our store so well-rounded. We’re able to offer style and comfort — something I think a lot of men and women in Ottawa can appreciate.
EW: What are your plans for the future of Max’s Footwear?
SV: We just want to thrive and support other local businesses. In today’s tough economy, it’s important that we support others who add uniqueness to our community.