Catch a glimpse of Francesco Pasta crafting Italian, handmade sandals in the window of his new store on Worth Avenue.
The first sandals Francesco Pasta made were a pair of flip-flops with black straps. They took him an hour to create. But when he placed the sandals in his family’s storefront window in Capri, Italy, it only took 10 minutes for them to sell. “Same pair now I can make in four minutes,” he says as he hammers a beige sole on top of a cast-iron cobbler stand in his new shop on Worth Avenue. In between swinging, threading and tacking, he waves to passersby as they slow their pace to watch him work.
Leaving a legacy
There used to be eight shops like Pasta’s in Capri, Italy, where tourists would flock for handmade, custom sandals. But since Pasta came to the U.S. two years ago, there are only seven. Pasta’s reason for leaving walked into his store nearly a decade before. Jessica Aleman was on a Mediterranean cruise with her mom when the tour guide insisted she have a pair of sandals made, since the custom-crafted shoes have brought everyone from Jacqueline Kennedy to Leonardo DiCaprio’s mom to the island for the past century. The tour guide dropped them off at Pasta’s store. Aleman and Pasta exchanged email addresses and continued to keep in touch, and by 2012, they were engaged. The couple married the next year with plans to stay in Capri. But not long after, they made the business decision to move, since Capri’s busy season is only April through November.
Finding Worth Avenue
Pasta and Aleman relocated to Chicago, where Aleman’s family lives and where the couple started a traveling sandal company, hosting parties from which guests would take home custom-made sandals. After about a year, the couple decided it was time to open a brick and mortar store in the U.S. While they considered Boca Raton and Naples during their search, Aleman says Palm Beach had a similar feel to Capri—offering similar architecture with the vias, and having a comparable clientele. “It’s nice the people here appreciate this kind of work,” Pasta says of Palm Beach customers.
The Capri experience
Sandals decorate the store walls, but they aren’t for sale—they’re sample styles to choose from. Once a client has selected a style and colors, Pasta matches their foot to a corresponding sole imported from Capri. He then makes a few marks, hammers the appropriate holes, attaches the leather straps shipped from Tuscany and tightens them around the foot. To keep everything in place, Pasta uses brass nails instead of glue—what he says is the giveaway as to whether or not the shoes are authentic Capri sandals.
Your custom pair
Pasta encourages customers to purchase shoes at the store. It’s part of the expectation for his sandals—they have to fit each foot perfectly. Depending on the materials, shoes cost between $150 and $500-plus. Aleman also suggests a gift card. “You’re gifting an experience,” she says.