On Saturday, April 14, 2012, Vibram opened it's flagship retail store (The first in the United States) on 292 Newbury Street in Boston. We covered the official press release here a couple weeks back. Vibram USA blew me away by offering to get me to Boston (last minute!) to enjoy the opening ceremonies, so let me start this by saying, "Thanks!"
What follows is a pretty exhaustive round-up of the flagship Vibram (FiveFingers) retail store. I've got an absurd amount of photos plus a little video tour to share, since I'm sure you're all wondering it'd be like to take a toe shod pilgrimage. Let's get to it!
How about we start with a video tour! It starts with a very short opening by Tony Post, CEO of Vibram USA, and then I do my best to walk you through the Vibram store. If you spot my toe shoes and wonder, "Whoa, what FiveFingers are those?" Well, I wore a rare pair of Sorrento FiveFingers, which didn't make it to U.S. production (but should be showing up in Europe).
Check it out!
Inside the Store
If I could use one word to describe the Vibram store it'd be "surfaces" because literally every wall within the store is covered with something of interest. Above, you can see a few of the different surfaces on the floor — everything from a grassy patch (not live grass, of course), to rocky surfaces, to custom tiling. In one section of the store is a structure you can walk or climb up that has rocks, grass, wood, etc. Even the ceiling is covered in framed, old Vibram advertisements through the company's 70+ year existence.
Speaking of 70+ year existence, Vibram's flagship store takes special care to showcase all of Vibram and not just FiveFingers. After all, Vibram has been a sole manufacturer exclusively for most of it's existence, which is chronicled in a timeline in one section of the store:
That means Vibram soles are prominently on display on all kinds of shoes (and not just the toe shoe variety). Boots, hiking shoes, dress shoes; Vibram soles are everywhere!
And of course, FiveFingers do get special "airtime" given that they're the only shoe the store will be selling (for now); they've got lots on display including the Kids FiveFingers and all the latest and greatest Vibrams. As for the store carrying rare FiveFingers from Vibram Italy, the store did have a few of the Classic Paillettes FiveFingers:
Here are a few more photos I snapped from the opening:
FiveFingers Fans Unite!
One of the most fun aspects of attending this event was getting to run into all these other FiveFingers fans, including a couple I had corresponded with (or even published a user story from). If you didn't already know this, people who are into Vibrams tend to be pretty nice folks, and the enthusiasm at the store opening was in full swing. People were trying on VFFs to add to their collections and a few were trying them on for the first time, ever.
Hanging out with the Vibram crew
For me, one of the great things about attending this event was getting to meet the Vibram crew here in the U.S. as well as a number of the Vibram folks from Italy! Ciao, Marco and Riccardo (among many others!)! Seriously, I got to chitchat with Tony Post, the CEO of Vibram USA at length — talk about a nice guy. It was only on returning from my trip to Boston that I realized how little we had talked about FiveFingers. Whoops!
Meanwhile, I got to meet the grandson of Vitale Bramani — Marco — he's the worldwide head honcho of Vibram. I watched as he helped a kid try on a pair of FiveFingers for the first time, telling her how to seat her toes in the pockets first.
And of course, I got to hang out with a few of the folks I've come to know mostly through trying to get them to slip up and give me the scoop on what's coming out next in the FiveFingers world.
All in all, the opening festivities were lots of fun for me, personally. I've spent a ot of time blogging about FiveFingers so it was a sort of milestone to get to attend this event. Thank you, Vibram!
Happy 3rd Birthday, BirthdayShoes.com!
And speaking of milestones, a few days after the Vibram store opening, it just so happened that BirthdayShoes.com turned 3 (on April 17, I think). Yep, this site has now been up for a bit over three years. In that time, the site has had over 2.5 million unique visitors. The forums have over 3K members (over 200 of which have at least 50 posts or more). Our facebook page has about 5,500 "likes" (are you one of them?) and we're growing our Google+ presence, too. As for reviewing minimalist shoes, at the current pace we'll have reviewed something like a hundred by this summer.
That is a lot of shoes.
So I want to say, "thanks" also to all of you readers who make this site special — it wouldn't be here but for the enthusiasm and encouragement you've all shown for the site. Thank you!
Going forward, I hope to keep growing the site, improving our coverage, sharing more user stories (what's yours?), and generally just trying to improve the world through spreading the news about healthier footwear choices.
Below are photos from photographer Greg Cooper (a couple of which are shown in full above). Awesome photography Greg!