Shays Shoes on Boundary Street, established more than 100 years ago in West End, has been looking after local feet for three generations.

“We get grandmothers coming in with their granddaughter saying, ‘I used to come here when I was your age, when I was a little girl, and get my shoes’,” says owner Wayne Shay proudly. The shop was started by Wayne’s granduncle Bernard Shay in 1901. In those days they were mainly boot makers and repairers. Bernard Shay was also a chiropodist and as his practice grew he had less time to spend in the shop, so his brother Dennis, Wayne’s grandfather, took over.

Originally Shays Shoes was located in a wooden building that stood where Georges Seafood is now. They moved to Holland Park for a short time but have been in their current location since 1958. Wayne’s father Greg got involved in the business after the war and it was around then that things started to change. They became more of a family shoe store, rather than a boot makers. “More and more commercial footwear was available,” says Wayne. “More factories and importing was happening, all that sort of grew momentum.”

Wayne had been coming in to the shop since he was a boy, doing his homework there after school and helping out. As his father Greg got older, Wayne took on more and more of the responsibilities of the business until sadly he passed away in 2005. “He actually came in right to the end,” says Wayne. “He did get unwell and there were times when he couldn’t, so I was basically running it then for him.”

In recent times, with Wayne and his wife Moira at the helm, the shop has evolved again to keep up with the changing times. “As the basic family stuff became readily available in department stores, it was taking away from family shoe stores. Brisbane had lots of family shoe stores, dotted all around the suburbs. Now there’s only a couple. A lot of them either retired, sold or closed down whereas we, to keep going, we had to evolve.” Wayne says their focus is on comfortable, quality brands. “We’re not into the high heel, high fashion; we’re more into lifestyle footwear, daywear, travel wear; a little bit quirky a little bit different.”

Wayne and Moira have three children of their own and Wayne likes the idea that one of them may take over some day, but they’re still very young. “Who knows, in the future … I would like it, because it’s a long history and I think you need these types of businesses … it’s a real shame if we lose all the independent businesses and it all becomes big chains and multinational companies running everything … we have a following here, a lot of people that have been coming here even over generations … that’s valuable you know, it’s part of the community, it’s part of the history of the area, and it’s a nice thing to have.”