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Inspiring Conversations with Alice McIntosh of The Red Shoes

Today we’d like to introduce you to Alice McIntosh.

Hi Alice, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
In 1976 my daughter and I went into the local dance store to pick up her standing order of pointe shoes and I was needing some things for myself. I asked about a leotard and the man who owned the store and knew me very well because I taught tap classes in Pasadena and had for years while sending all my students to him for shoes. He was very rude so I walked out and went to Hollywood where the staff treated me the same way because they were all waiting on Mary Tyler Moore and couldn’t be bothered with us. So we finally got what we needed in the last place to buy dance attire. When I got home, all I could think about was having a better place to buy dancewear.

Within a week, I had bought a building in old town Pasadena which wasn’t what it is now and ordered from four dancewear companies. My husband and all his friends made an old barbershop with a house attached into a really nice store. In one month and in April of 1976, we opened the door and had three customers all buying pointe shoes.

I had danced all my life so I knew about all the gear and I had been working for a wholesale/retail company for 15 years. The owner taught me everything he knew plus put me in charge of shipping, some buying and the retail business in his store. I was ready to go but I’m telling the truth when I tell you that not once had I ever thought of opening a store. I have a problem with spontaneous.

When Old Town became something other than bars, artist’s studios, junk stores and a lot of drunks walking around, it became impossible for people to park anywhere. There were huge trucks parked all over the streets and there were no parking restrictions for these people. That is when I found my South Pasadena store in October of 1988.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
We really were very lucky with staff and the only reason anyone ever left was because of a better paying job with benefits or starting a family. There were always five people working and two were always students working part-time. Our busy time has always been afternoon.

We had a great business and it supported me and others. It became very successful very fast. We had really good months and four that were always slow. We were always able to pay our bills on time and everything went along smoothly until the internet. At that time, people started coming in, getting fit and leaving to buy online. When something didn’t fit, they would try to trade it at the Red Shoes because they needed the item that day. I would give in because the student was always very upset. I had to stop because it was messing with our inventory. I put signs up asking people not to use our store as a showroom and that we couldn’t afford to help people who had no intention in a purchase from us. I have many stories about this time in my life and all were challenges.

Then came Covid and that put everything on hold and the only way I stayed open the three months that I was forced by the city to close was by selling masks from one of our vendors who were making them out of leotard fabric. I sent an email to our list and everyone forwarded it to their friends and family. We were able to pay the rent and keep the store open. It was amazing. We then did phone orders mostly and I delivered most of the orders or they were picked up at the curb. Slowly people started coming in again and now it’s nothing like it was in the past, but we are still open.

Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about The Red Shoes?
The Red Shoes is named for the movie of the same name from the 1950’s. My all time favorite movie which is still technically really wonderful.

We are known for our pointe shoe fittings and treating people with respect. Everyone who comes in the store is important to us and we really try our best to fill their needs.

We go out of our way to special order for our customers if it’s at all possible.

We carry Bloch, Capezio, Mirella, Eurotard, Danshuz, M Stevens, R & K Imports and French Atelier hair accessories. Plus we are just starting to sell dance art that is made by local artists but has to be dance-oriented.

Can you tell us more about what you were like growing up?
In the 40″s and 50″s I lived in a dance studio and my friends came from my neighborhood and dance classes. I loved performing and did it whenever I had the chance. I was never a good ballet dancer and my talent was tap. I took Spanish dancing, baton, acrobats (gymnastics,) tap and ballet. When I was old enough, I went to classes in Hollywood where the teacher told me to take off my pointe shoes and throw them in the trash. He said I was never going to be a ballet dancer with my flat feet. It didn’t come as a shock because I did know it myself.

Going to the ballet, the orchestra, museums and live theater has always been my favorite thing to do. I try to support artists and have season tickets to L A Chamber, Pasadena Playhouse and see most local theaters. I also love being around artists of any kind.

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