Walk'n Down Memory Lane

Updated: Sep 25, 2018

It all started with a walk in the majestic redwoods one day. The sun was shining in beams through the trees and the dew glistened off the leaves in jewel-like rainbow colors. There in the middle of the woods was a mushroom ring. that nature has a way of plopping down randomly, but what made this ring so special is in the middle of it was a tiny, busy elf hammering away on a leather shoe, unaware that he was being watched. There my mother and father sat for hours learning the techniques and tricks of shoe making…

Yeah, sure. That’s exactly how my family got into the shoe business…

I know it wasn’t magical, but my family’s history with shoes began before 1991 during the early 80’s. Humboldt County was economically depressed. My mom, always very creative made a pair of custom shoes for herself and baby shoes for me and my sister. One day a woman asked if my mom could make a pair for her. And that’s when Walk’n Comfort was born.

My parent’s were able to work out of their shop on their land, making custom shoes for people. They learned about shoe construction by taking apart shoes, dissecting them and teaching themselves about shoe construction. They would also travel to arts shows and festivals from Oregon to Arizona throughout the year. Some shows were successful and some where flops, but we always managed to have everything we needed from even though these were the leanest days for my family. I never had any memories of being without, because we had a garden to eat from, clothes on our back and a happy home. I have memories of playing in the scrap leather box and always being around my parent’s when I was little. I also had my cousins to play with nearby so we where always a very busy household.

Everything changed for my family after my parent’s bought the shoe store in 1991. I was 10 years old and my sister was almost 13. No more long days traveling and selling custom shoes, my parent’s had a 9-5 right here in Arcata, CA. I started coming to the store on Saturdays…we had cable TV! And if I helped sweep floors and help the customers I could get $5 to go get doughnuts. It seemed like a pretty good deal to me. Back then, we had this incredible International cash register that I loved to operate. And that’s when I learned to count back change and the value of customer service. For a 10 year old from the country, these were exciting times.

When we took over the store, we were also gifted with some new friends, every day we had a couple “old timer’s” that would come in, like clockwork and drink coffee and tell us about the good old days. They were amazing old guys and like grandpa’s to me. I always felt very lucky to hear the stories of the old days locally and meet these incredibly interesting people.

Time passed and my parent’s bought a deserted parking lot a block off the Plaza on the corner of 7th and G street where an old burger bar used to be.

In 2000, we opened our doors to the new Plaza Shoe Shop. We had the space to expand into men’s and women’s casuals and fashion shoes for the first time. It was a hairy, scary time for my parent’s. New location, new business model and a huge amount of investment…was this all going to work? It did and today we have a beautiful store that is something my family will always be proud of.

On January 3, 2017, I stepped in and took over the store from my parent’s and the family business continues with me. I have dreams to have my kiddos helping customers and sweeping floors…earning the occasional donut. The skills I learned have been invaluable to me through out the years and I am constantly grateful to those early experiences at the store. Today, I work hard to streamline the store processes focusing on customer experience where you can still get information and solutions for complicated feet and custom patterns for your work boots.

We love meeting new people and would love to help make your feet happy.

Sorry, no magical shoe elves on premises, but a lot of shoes and boots.

A huge, ‘Thank you!” to our lovely community and all it’s support over the years,

Aiyana Neely


Phone: (707) 822-1125

699 G st, Arcata, CA 95521

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