Downtown Style: Stella is a Feast for the Eyes and for the Soles

If you have ever visited Stella, arguably one of Burlington’s most polished gems, you probably noticed that the small shoe seller has always had a certain aura of secrecy. Up until recently, the store was located on a small upstairs studio next to Ken’s Pizza. Other than the sign posted outside on the wall that announces “Stella: A Place to Buy Shoes”, the secret hideaway of Vermont’s most fashionable shoes could have forever remained in hiding.

Since then, the store has moved down the street and, despite the unlikely fate of neighboring Quiznos (the talking baby endorsers), the mystery remains.

This time, the elusive lady is located not upstairs, but underground. Literally.

As soon as you open the door leading to the stairs, the first thing you notice is the beautiful display of Frye cowboy boots and rounded toe slouchy pirate boots right next to it. I was hooked.

This kind of distressed buccaneer footwear is the stuff my dreams are made of. As I descended down the spotless staircase, I felt transported to a chic L.A. store where Jessica Simpson could be seen dropping more money than my whole college tuition on a pair of shoes.

This cannot possibly be Vermont. Were my eyes deceiving me? I had, after all forgotten my glasses, leaving me with the keen eyesight of Mr. Magoo.

The wooden floor, as spotless as the stairs, shines to the point of welcoming me with my own reflection. No snow puddles, no salt stains.

Placed in strategic locations are two lavish, light, luxurious couches. It was in this opulent place that I met Dara Harbour, co-owner of Stella.

Dara, a California native, teamed up with partner Piper to open a shoe store. They believed that Burlington was ready for a shoe retailer that focused on fashion rather than just comfort.

That means no Crocs, no snow boots, and certainly no Timberlands. Because of the diverse background of the two partners, Dara confessed that she and Piper clash as often as they agree on what to buy, and she also says that you can see both of their styles in the store’s merchandise.

The prices in the store range from $20 to $400, and the average price for a pair of shoes is anywhere in between $60 and $150, the owner says. This means that Stella has something for every wallet.

There is a line of lower priced shoes that is especially aimed to the late teens/ early thirties crowd, part of what they call their “niche”. The rest of the shoes – the pricier items – are, of course, aimed towards the slightly older ladies, who have a more established budget.

It is this group of ladies that Dara and Piper have in mind for next year. They will not only introduce more of the luxury lines, such as Kors, Coach and Marc Jacobs, but they will also offer a new line of custom-made fashion shoes that guarantee comfort. They can even work with orthopedic needs! All of this, obviously, comes with a price tag, but if the results are what Dara has described, then that price tag is more than worth it.

As far as Dara and Piper’s summer predictions? Much of what we’ve seen last time: wedges made of earthy materials like cork and wood.

They also foresee lots of browns and, of course, metallics. So keep your chunky jewelry and gypsy skirts, because Stella will keep the bohemian look going strong