People who know me even a little, know that my love for footwear is almost comparable with my love for travel. Ballerinas, stilettos, chappals, boots, I don’t discriminate. Each one of these babies are precious and deserve a home (in my cupboard). And that’s another reason why I love to travel. What better way to add to your collection, than picking up local beauties from the places you visit?So, when the husband and I decided to go to Greece in 2013, I was super excited, of course about the trip itself, but secretly about the prospect of buying Greek sandals. I did not of course tell the husband that, as he may just have changed the destination out of mere fright of having to 1. Visit a 100 shoe stores with me, 2. Chivalrously offer to carry my heavy shopping bags (while I run around looking for more and he tries to hold me back, unsuccessfully), 3. Pay for extra baggage and 4. Make space in our Mumbai apartment, where my shoes have already occupied 95% space in the two shoe racks we own.But, what I did do was, silently research about the best places I could buy authentic Greek footwear. After a bit of digging around I came across this gem of a place called the STAVROS MELISSINOS "THE POET SANDAL-MAKER OF Athens". Just reading about it got me so excited that I immediately dug out more information and put this at the top of our agenda for Athens.The store, inherited by Stavros Melissinos (now 86 years old), who belongs to a noble Greek family and is the author of Rubiyat, was opened by his father, way back in 1927. For many years, this was the only shoe store in the area, dressing the feet of many clients from the theatre and cinema community (only they wore sandals, then) and the Queen of Greece herself. History has it that a friend of Socrates had a shoe store in this exact place 2500 years ago.The store is now managed by Pantelis Melissinos, Stavros’ son, who is an artist, educated in New York. He returned to Athens some years ago, to prevent the legacy from ending with his father. Today, there are many stores around, selling Geek footwear, but none as authentic, high quality and enjoyable as this one.After dreaming for days of entering this shop and raiding it, the day finally came when we landed in Athens and were walking around Monastiraki Square, after an enticing morning at the Acropoli, followed by a scrumptious meal of home-made pies in a quaint little cafe. This is the time I sprung the surprise on the unsuspecting husband and started looking for this store. Considering my zeal to find the place and recognising the determined twinkle in my eyes, the husband ceded defeat and followed me, while I made my way past the flea markets in the shadow of the Acropoli. This hidden gem, located at 89 Pandrossou, is actually not that difficult to find and after asking a few people around, we found the placeAnd, then I entered (a part of) heaven. The décor, the smell of fresh shoes (don’t you just love that), the handsome and polite salesmen, the posters of the famous patrons and the many shoes all stuffed in shelves in the little shop, were a sensorial feast. I had to use all constraint, not to start running around, picking shoes off the shelf.a little gaping, we settled down to look at the shoes (yes, WE. After seeing the shop, the husband couldn't resist buying for himself too). One of the first things the store people do, is hand you a catalogue which lists all the styles available. They have about 30 styles available for both men and women (most of them unisex) with names like Jackie O, Cleopatra, John Lenin, Aristotle and Ceasar. Once you select the style(s) you like, they bring out some pairs which are just the base and the straps, make you slip it onto your feet, adjust it so that it fits you snug and just right, note down the measurements and then take it to their little work-space to customize your shoes for you. You can sit around and actually watch your shoes being crafted to perfection, in front of you! The finishing takes about 30 minutes once they start working on it, but you may have to wait longer in case there is a queue of people.
After choosing our footwear – John Lenon for me and Simon for the husband – and while waiting for it to get made, we spent our time gawking at the many shoes hanging around like bunches of berries, admiring the headshots of the autographed posters of patrons and chatting with Pantelis about the shop, its history and clientele. The list is indeed impressive, from Prince Charles, Sarah- Jessica Parker, Maria Callas, John Lennon, Jeremy Irons, the Beatles and us (yay, we are part of the list now)!This is undoubtedly the one memento one must get back from Greece. The leather is good, the fit perfect, the staff friendly, the place charming and the price totally affordable. Depending on the pair you choose, you will end up paying 30-40 Euros. They can make coloured leather too, but that takes a little longer to make (about 45 minutes, again depending on the number of customers) and costs about 50-60 Euros.After about 30-45 minutes of entering the store, our shoes were ready (there weren't too many customers at that time) and we left the place grinning and waiting eagerly to start using them.
Our only regrets: 1. Not being able to meet Stavros, as he was resting at home that day and 2. Buying only 1 pair each (and the husband readily agrees this time).