Millipede, Jamaica Plain's newest shoe store, quietly opened its doors at 7 Pond St. on July 16.
After working out the kinks, its grand opening on August 4th was timed to make a bigger impact, taking advantage of JP's monthly retail celebration, First Thursday.
Owner Riyo Hirota, 32, said that the turnout at the grand opening was encouraging and the initial days have been as good as can been expected. Although there's a possibility that the store will be immediately profitable, she is prepared for an extended period of little to no profitability which is characteristic for new businesses. She expects to do what it takes in the meantime and for now is the company's only full time employee.
Comfortable with hard work, Hirota has been living in JP for 12 years where she and her husband have purchased, renovated and sold more than one house while also working full time jobs. In order to minimize their cash outlay, the design and construction of the store's interior, formerly the site of , which has since moved to 615 Centre St., was done entirely by Hirota and her husband.
According to Hirota, whose son is now 15 months old, the couple's decision to open a shoe store was made so that the young mother could work less physically hard while the couple raises their son.
Born in Yokohama, Japan, Hirota emigrated to California with her parents at age 14, moved to Pennsylvania midway through high school and landed in Boston where she enrolled in the School of the Museum of Fine Arts from which she received a diploma in 2002 and the prestigious Fifth Year grant in 2003. Although some of her accomplished artwork adorns the walls of Millipede, Hirota explains with no apparent regret that she no longer practices her art.
Aside from its Latin roots "mille" and "ped" which translate literally as thousand foot, the store's playful name clearly expresses the way that Hirota has combined her past with her present and her passion with her work. As a young girl in Japan and throughout her life she has been an insect lover. And long before she opened the store she'd been passionate about comfortable, casual footwear, the store's only kind of shoe inventory. When asked who her competition in JP is she replied that she didn't think there was any competition. Far from bravado, Hirota went on to explain that the line of casual footwear that she offers is simply not stocked in the other stores.
Prior to opening the shop, Hirota worked as inventory manager at a wholesaler in Waltham, A-Train Jewelry. She developed the buying and contact management skills there that translate directly to the shoe business. Her daily commute though was a bit of a hassle. Now living a short walk away she says "I feel spoiled. I haven't driven my car in over two weeks. After commuting for ten years I feel so lucky!" That's a sentiment frequently expressed by JP shop owners.
Aside from her clear entrepreneurial bent, Hirota brings a special personality to the shoe business. She credits her artistic and cultural background, but what she might not realize is that her warm and welcoming nature, totally unassuming, might turn out to be one of her best assets.
In spite of its small footprint, only about 500 sq. ft., the shop feels spacious and welcoming. Hirota has signed a two year lease with a three year option. Rent is in the $40-$50 sq.ft. range. Foot traffic is steady, and will only improve when the neighboring location returns to seven day operation. Despite its limited space, Millipede carries more than a half dozen lines of footwear for men, women and children.
7 Pond St.
Hours are 12-8 Monday-Friday, 10-7 Saturday, 10-5 Sunday. 857-203-9177 millipedeshoes.blogspot.com/