A SHOE LOVER from childhood, 51-year-old Elena Mekhova opened her mobile boutique Shoe-La-La in August, 2014, to sell made-in-Europe, affordable, quality footwear to professional women. Mekhova parks her van on the 4800 block of Massachusetts Avenue in Spring Valley and is open for business Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. We spoke to her one Sunday afternoon in February after she closed shop for the day.
MLB: Shoes have a special meaning for you. Why?
EM: I grew up in Russia and I never had enough shoes. The planned economy never planned a shoe for me. When there are 100 pairs of shoes, and 500 people looking, well, if you’re not there at the right time, you don’t get shoes. I became self-conscious about not having a pair of shoes or ones that fit me, and that feeling has stuck with me.
: So, do you have a mission?
EM: There are so many shoes around that are not good quality. My idea is to
sell quality shoes that are comfortable but don’t sacrifice style.
MLB: Are there shoes that inspire you?
EM: I had a pair of shoes that I put flowers on. While I was working on converting the van to a boutique, getting paperwork done for licenses, etc., this pair of shoes kept me going.
They are a pure joy to look at! Later, I found an image on Shutterstock that
was similar, and that image became my business logo. Happy feet make happy people.
MLB: You have decorated your van with curtains, shelves and stools. Do you mostly stay in
Spring Valley or do you move it?
EM: Spring Valley is a great market for me — women from 25 to 65, who are well-traveled and have extra money. And I live on 46th St. NW.
MLB: What brands do you carry?
EM: I carry Cordani shoes, which are designed in Italy but made in a factory in Los Angeles; Jon Josef from Spain, French Sole (FS/NY) and Swedish Hasbeens. Prices begin at $75 for flats and go to $250 for boots.
MLB: What styles and size range?
EM: At any one time, I carry about 15 different styles of flats, pumps and sandals with various heel heights in sizes 5-11, all mediums. I don’t focus as much on trends as on comfort. If a woman wears the right pair of shoes for her, her posture is different and so is her attitude. If I don’t have a customer’s size in my van, I’ll get it and deliver it to her doorstep for free.
MLB: Why do you operate only on weekends?
EM: I have a full-time job, but I wanted to give this business a try. I’m planning what to do when I retire, and if this works out … Through word of mouth and advertising, the business is growing. Most of my customers walk out with two pairs of shoes.
MLB: In addition to a lot of hard work, what do you think has helped make you successful?
EM: Passion for what I do. Marilyn Monroe supposedly said: “Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world.” I would change that to give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the boardroom, the ballroom, any room at all.”
— Janet Kelly