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Size does matter for Brighton Heights shoe store owner

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Monday, Feb. 13, 2012

Gail Roach has taken big steps -- literally and figuratively.

With no retail experience, she has opened a shoe store for women with large feet.

"As a teenager, it was so hard to find shoes," says Roach, who wears a size 12. "So, I know there is a need for this store. I have always wanted to open a store like this. And now that I am retired, this was perfect timing."

After 36 years as a Pittsburgh Board of Education paraprofessional, she and her daughter Amber, who also wears a size 12, decided to open the specialized footwear boutique, Peculia Shoes, last June. The store -- which carries women sizes 9-14 -- is in Brighton Heights, where Roach lives and where she felt she could add something unique to the business community.

Peculia carries Aerosoles and Barefoot Tess and hopes to add Jessica Simpson and 9West in the near future. Roach continually searches for inventory and other options and recently added shoes and boots in wider widths.

"Some people might be OK with buying shoes and boots online, but I think you need to try shoes and boots on so you see how they fit and how they look," Roach says. "And if I don't have it, I will do whatever I can go get it for you."

To Roach, bigger really is better. She has taken her own frustration for shopping for shoes and channeled it into helping others not have to endure the frustration.

"I love this store," says customer Traci Poole-Marshall of Brighton Heights. "It is a wonderful addition to this neighborhood. It is a nice atmosphere and the prices are reasonable."

The store is colorful and set up to where customers can browse through available shoes and not have to wait for someone to get them. Shoes are $50 and up. Purses are $35 to $70.

"This is the way I envisioned this space," Roach says. "I didn't want it to look like a store. I want people to come in and feel like this is more of an experience than just a store. Of course, I would love to sell shoes, but this store is more than that. Some people just come in and sit and talk. I want people to feel comfortable being here."

What Roach is doing is wonderful says Mark Denkler, chairman of National Shoe Retailers Association and owner of Vince Canning Shoes in Delray Beach, Fla. With the average women's shoe size at 8 1/2 there is plenty of need for those women with above-average size feet, he says.

"There are lots of ladies who have a hard time finding shoes because the department stores and mass merchandisers buy what we call 'the guts' where most shoes are between sizes 7 1/2 to 9," Denkler says. "The fact she is specializing in sizes 9-14, once she gets the word out, she will get loyal customers. If they have a good experience at her store, they will come back again. It is nice to have a store to try shoes on versus buying on the Internet."

Geri Sculley, a wholesale accounts representative for Barefoot Tess who works out of Michigan, says she can relate.

"I am passionate about shoes and not just because I work in the business," says Sculley, who wears a size 12 or 13 depending on the shoe and designer. "I have been that woman who can't find shoes, and you feel like a freak when you go into a shoe store and ask for a big size and they look at you like you are crazy, or they say something really mean. Women with big feet want to go to a place to buy shoes where they will feel good about themselves."

Giving women that comfort zone is one reason Roach opened the store.

"Women like Gail are helping to push this to the forefront, so people will pay attention to us," Sculley says. "She is catering to a clientele that is pretty much ignored in the retail establishments of this world."

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Peculia Shoes, 3800 Brighton Road, Brighton Heights. Hours: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. Details: 412-766-3700


Photo Galleries

Peculia Shoes

Peculia Shoes

Gail Roach is the owner of Peculia Shoes, on Brighton Road, Saturday, January 21, 2012.

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