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Adam Markey is owner and founder of SoleAndStone.com: An online store focused on providing traditional men’s dress shoes that are 100% vegan all while maintaining the same level of convenience and customer service as large scale online footwear stores.
Caryn Hartglass: Hi Everybody. Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food. How are you today? I’m hearing your answers: some good, some okay, that’s good. Thanks for joining me. I’m having some minor technical difficulties here, but I think we can proceed. I’m always grateful for all the tricks and treats we have in cyberspace. I’m in California right now in the Bay area and I’m here for an extended period of time doing some fun work with healthy food and some theater projects that my partner Gary and I are involved with and it’s just an absolutely beautiful stunning place to be: lots of sun, fabulous, wonderful weather. I am so grateful to be in this state right now. Thank you for that, but it makes it a little challenging to broadcast and I’m doing the best I can and I hope this works out for you because I have some great things to share on today’s program. So, shall we get started? Yeah, I think we shall. So, let’s see. Something that I like to do. I’m always scouring the Internet for new information. Some of it’s fun, some of it’s serious, some of it’s scary. And I’m always excited to find out about vegan businesses because making vegan products, products that don’t harm animals, non-human animals and human animals. All of us together. We don’t want to exploit anybody. And I think we could all live in a really abundant, luscious, luxurious, wonderful life and so when I see businesses pop up that offer products that don’t exploit and don’t use animals I get excited because it’s all about access. If we have the opportunity right at our fingertips to conveniently make a choice and buy a product that was lovely and within our reasonable budget. Might be a little pricier than some other choices, might not be, but didn’t exploit and minimize tapping into the resources on the planet just in general a product that gives you everything you want and doesn’t hurt anybody. Don’t you want to buy that? I would and that’s why having access to more products, vegan products is so important and I want to support it. So, when I find a new business, I want to tell you about it and that’s what we’re going to be doing right now. I’m going to bring on my guest Adam Markey who has created the Sole and Stone Vegan Men’s Shoe Store. Welcome to It’s All About Food, Adam.
Adam Markey: Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: Hey, How are you doing, Adam?
Adam Markey: I’m doing great. How are you?
Caryn Hartglass: Good. So, you’re in Georgia?
Adam Markey: Yes, down here in Atlanta. We have a little bit of a thunderstorm going on right now, but we’ll make it through.
Caryn Hartglass: Ah, yes you will. I always like to hear where people are because it’s just so thrilling to me that we can all communicate so easily no matter where we are and I never take that for granted.
Adam Markey: Great.
Caryn Hartglass: [Laughter]. So, let’s start with your story.
Adam Markey: Okay.
Caryn Hartglass: Who are you, Adam? [Laughter].
Adam Markey: Who am I? Where do I start?
Caryn Hartglass: Actually, that’s a very difficult question to answer because many people go through life and never know who they are so we don’t have to get that philosophical unless you want.
Adam Markey: Okay, I was going to start from my high school days but I guess we can speed it up a bit.
Caryn Hartglass: The idea is ultimately we want to get to why a vegan shoe store. You know we can talk about being vegetarian and wherever you want to start.
Adam Markey: I’d love to tell you kind of what brought on the idea and I’m someone that, you know, I’ve tried to avoid leather products for a number of years now. I think probably for many of the same reasons a lot of your listeners can identify with. One that always been somewhat of a challenge is when it comes to men’s dress shoes.
Caryn Hartglass: Yep.
Adam Markey: And a nice pair of dress is one of those things that I think that almost every guy needs to have whether it’s because they have to wear it to work everyday or maybe it’s just a few times a year for a social engagement or a family event, um, or even if you get a speeding ticket and you need to go to court. You need to put on a nice pair of shoes.
Caryn Hartglass: [Laughter]. That’s an interesting one. Okay. Sure.
Adam Markey: The point being that there’s unlimited scenarios where a nice pair of shoes is going to be called for and historically there’s been this assumption that dress shoes equal leather shoes and one of the things that I discovered as the consumer end is that there are plenty of vegan options out there and I wanted to collect those and really present them in one unified place to try and bridge that world of men’s dress shoes and vegan animal friendly products and that’s how I kind of came up with the concept of the store.
Caryn Hartglass: So, that’s lovely and as I was mentioning before it’s all about access and I’m not exactly sure why, but there’s definitely more available for women in terms of clothing and for shoes that don’t use animal products and more and more we’re starting to see men’s products and I can appreciate what you can say. I remember when my brother got married. He was looking for a suit to wear and if he wanted to rent a tuxedo it was hard because they’re all wool based and he didn’t wear wool.
Adam Markey: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: And then there’s the issue of the shoes and you know we all want to look good from time to time and it’s probably easier to find men’s casual shoes, canvas but to get a sharp looking leather like shoe is tough so, I appreciate you trying to do that. Now, I imagine it was a major learning experience to put this all together.
Adam Markey: Yeah, it has been. One of the first challenges I had was the reality is in that, there’s no denying this is, I’m not a fashion guy, so,
Caryn Hartglass: [Laughter] Okay.
Adam Markey: And that’s just the truth. Anyone who knows me will tell you that. So, how do I go about determining what “nice looking shoes are” in order to auction them out to the public at large. So, what I started to do was look through various stores and start to get a mental data collection of the styles and the traits that they were putting on display. I would go online and look at the major retailers and see what their most popular products were. And I just started to get this mental picture of what was actively moving now and then sought out of the vegan equivalent of them from the various, you know, there’s tons of vegan manufacturers that specialize in vegan footwear and started to just pull them all in and get a sense of what was available and literally test them out myself.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s nice. So, you have a nice collection now.
Adam Markey: Oh, yeah. My closet is packed full of shoes now. I look like one of the Kardashians.
Caryn Hartglass: [Laughter]. Have you gotten anymore interested in fashion since you started to study it?
Adam Markey: Ah, no, to be honest with you. I mean, as much as I’d like to say, oh yeah, this is my new passion, but it’s really, it is more the creating a useable, online, accessible store and providing as many people with the option to go a humane route versus what may be the more traditional route because as you were saying there is accessibility there. There are options out there where you really don’t have to sacrifice the look or the comfort or the quality or the stability and just continue on your normal shopping patterns, your normal everyday life without these products that cause harm to the planet or cause harm to an animal.
Caryn Hartglass: I don’t want to go stereotyping, but I probably will right now. So, I’ll say my mea culpa and make my disclaimers before I do. [Laughter]. But, a lot of men are interested in fashion. There are many who are, but I think you’ll find a great many of them just want to put on latease and comfortable and get on with the day and then the time comes as you mentioned before special occasion they need to be dressed so, this is something that’s really convenient for them and I’m thinking of that whole television show the queer guy with the straight guy where these gentlemen would dress up somebody who was clueless about style and it can be really difficult if you are a compassionate vegan who doesn’t want to wear leather or a vegetarian who doesn’t want to wear leather and don’t know where to begin and you know, we do it all the time, my partner, Gary and I, we go shopping for shoes and shoes are kind of difficult so maybe you can speak on this in a minute about trying them on online because we’ll go to different stores and look and really for dress shoes it’s next to impossible to find anything.
Adam Markey: Yeah, and I think you’re right. What I try to do, I think most guys don’t want to shop, are not interested in fashion, just want to get a pair of Kicks and move on with their daily life. You can have those traits and still have compassion for animals and still be bothered by the environmental effects and the cruelty that’s involved. You don’t have to be one of the “queer-eyes” in order to be one of the compassionate eyes I guess is what I’m trying to say.
Caryn Hartglass: Is there a way to know that the shoe will fit you if you’re ordering online?
Adam Markey: Ah. Really the only way to do it is to order it. They’re shipped out for free and if you don’t like it you send them back for free. It’s pretty much a staple at this point in the online footwear business that every consumer’s going to expect that and I think that’s fair especially if
Caryn Hartglass: That’s great!
Adam Markey: You’re a consumer that is not familiar with the vegan option and you’re asking them to pivot from what their standard buying habits have been. If they’re willing to make that experiment. If they’re willing to take a risk and say, “I’ll try on these shoes”. I’m not sure if it’s my obligation to make sure that they get them as quickly, conveniently and at no charge. We minimize the risk; if they don’t like them by all means send them back. Not a problem. I’m just happy that people are willing to give them a try. But I will say
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. That can be a challenge when shopping online. A lot of people think, “Oh, I don’t want to go for the shipping especially I don’t know if it’s going to fit so that is a very, very generous policy.”
Adam Markey: Absolutely, absolutely and I will say, when I said earlier I test them out myself, not everything made to cut, so these are quality. These are comfortable. I asked friends, neighbors, “Hey, what do you think of these shoes” and they would say, “Those aren’t leather?” which is the greatest compliment I could ask for. They look just like the traditional leather shoe; they feel like it, there’s really not as much of a pivot as many folks are going to think.
Caryn Hartglass: Now you’re sourcing these shoes from various manufacturers of shoes or vegan. These are all from vegan suppliers?
Adam Markey: That is correct. Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: Because there are some makers of shoes or storefronts that will offer a handful of vegan shoes, but they have all kinds of shoes so we know that they’re really clean.
Adam Markey: Yeah, no, these are all from brands that specialize exclusively on vegan footwear. In fact, they’ve all been approved vegan through PETA.
Caryn Hartglass: Excellent. Are you familiar with the shoe material icons that we see in shoes lately?
Adam Markey: Ah, I’m not.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, whenever I’m looking to see if a shoe is vegan and I don’t know if it is or not, I look under the tongue of the shoe and in the old days it would say leather or synthetic leather or old man made materials and sometimes it wouldn’t have anything at all, but more and more I’m seeing these little icons and the leather icon is a very odd looking thing. I don’t even know what it’s supposed to be it’s kind of it’s kind of a one, two, three, four, five, six. A six-prong block, I’m sure it’s supposed to be something like a saddle or something. I don’t know what it is. [Laughter]. And then there’s an icon of it looks like fabric. It’s horizontal columns and rows and that means textile and then there’s a diamond that mysteriously means other. [Laughter]. I don’t know what other materials means.
Adam Markey: No, I’m not familiar. I mean I know what you’re referring to where it will say synthetic or leather materials, but I don’t know the icons.
Caryn Hartglass: Great. I mean I’m glad they’re there, but if you don’t know what they mean that’s kind of meaningless so I was in the store looking for shoes and I didn’t see the all man made material or the leather notice. I saw these little pictures. Fortunately, I had my phone with me and I was able to find it right away and figure it out.
Adam Markey: Oh, well.
Caryn Hartglass: But it’s kind of crazy stuff.
Adam Markey: I learned something new.
Caryn Hartglass: But it’s much better to buy it from a supplier who guarantees that the materials are not from exploited animals.
Adam Markey: Oh, yeah. Definitely and it’s great that they don’t stand out and something unusual. They look just like and they feel like just like every shoe people are accustomed to.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. Let’s talk about the name of the store, Sole and Stone. There’s something poetic about that. How did you decide on that name?
Adam Markey: Ah, well, I think you’re going to be disappointed. When I set out to do this, I started to work with a creative and design team, some local freelancers and they came up with it. Ah,
Caryn Hartglass: Okay.
Adam Markey: One of the things I got to figure out early is what am I good at, what am I not good at. Design and coming up with cleaver brand names is not something I’m good at. I was very appreciative and dependent on their expertise.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, well they did a good job. I’m just wondering what they were thinking when they did it. Do you know?
Adam Markey: Ah, well the stone part we were trying to think natural, but at the same time somewhat masculine.
Caryn Hartglass: I get it.
Adam Markey: And then the sole part just kind of had a nice ring to it.
Caryn Hartglass: Do you know where some of your shoes are made?
Adam Markey: They all seem to be made in Portugal. They’re imported primarily from the U.K. or New York, but there are a handful of factories in Portugal that are making these types of shoes.
Caryn Hartglass: Awesome. Are you familiar with the glue that’s used in shoes?
Adam Markey: Ah, with these shoes?
Caryn Hartglass: Well, I know these are vegan, right?
Adam Markey: Right.
Caryn Hartglass: Vegan style.
Adam Markey: Right. So, they would not use any of the animal based products a whatsoever.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. Well, this is great. So, right now I’m looking at your website and as you mentioned, you just have a small collection. There’s six, nine. Looking at nine items and they are stunning.
Adam Markey: Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: You know it’s funny [laughter]. I’m just thinking of my sister [laughter]. I have to turn her on to this site. My sister’s a vegan and she’s a commercial real estate lawyer. So, it has nothing to do with anything other than unimportant comments she made about men’s shoes. She was recently, featured. She won an award, I may not get the phrasing exactly right, she was awarded one of the top 15, I think, South Florida women in business and she was at a ceremony and they each were given just a few seconds to introduce themselves and give something positive about how they got to where they were and my sister told me everybody else went over their time allotment, way over their time allotment, but she didn’t she just went up there and she said her secret to reaching the top was wearing men’s shoes. [Laughter].
Adam Markey: Oh, wow.
Caryn Hartglass: She’d just go to the top in men’s shoes. [Laughter].
Adam Markey: It’s funny.
Caryn Hartglass: Men’s shoes are so much more practical and comfortable than women’s shoes.
Adam Markey: Well, I could imagine, I’ve never tried to wear high heels myself, but I can imagine that, yeah, they probably are more comfortable than women’s shoes.
Caryn Hartglass: You should try it for Halloween sometime. [Laughter].
Adam Markey: Maybe next year. It’s funny, you mentioned she’s an attorney. When I was first playing with this concept, I was talking to a friend of mine who’s an attorney, who also tries to keep vegetarian, tries to avoid leather, um, but the reality is he’s in court several days a week and he’s got to be presentable, he’s got to look professional. And he said, “Adam, it’s my job, it’s what, I can’t go in there wearing, you know, canvas Birkenstock’s and ask the judge or the clients or the jury to take me seriously. So, he is very excited about this idea of where he can just decide to go shopping and get the vegan options.
Caryn Hartglass: He’s going to be your best customer. Yeah.
Adam Markey: He will.
Caryn Hartglass: Now, I know you’re just starting out. Do you think you’ll continue to stick with these men’s dress shoes or will you expand a little on other men’s shoes?
Adam Markey: I still don’t know where it’s going to expand out to. I definitely will stay on the men’s side of things if anything it’s just because the whole world of women’s footwear scares the hell out of me. Um,
Caryn Hartglass: [Laughter]. Right. Ah, I’m just curious because we live in New York most of the time and the weather there is really nasty on everything. It’s nasty on homes, it’s nasty on skin, it’s nasty on clothing and it’s especially nasty on shoes and I mentioned my partner, Gary, is always looking for stylish shoes that are functional and he’s having an especially hard time being a Californian in the nasty New York weather especially the rain and the snow finding shoes that will hold up in bad weather. Something to think about for the future. [Laughter].
Adam Markey: Will do. There are also things like wallets and belts.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, yeah.
Adam Markey: You know, just a whole world of products that I think can lend themselves to this notion.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, this is what the 21st Century is all about everybody and that is creating traditional products that we all know and love and not food product and clothing products where we eliminate the animal ingredients and replace them with plant based ingredients. Um, or I guess we can call petrochemical products, um, what do we call them, natural ingredients? They may be animal-based but they are from animals from that lived millions of years ago.
Adam Markey: Yeah, these are, these are animal friendly.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, of course, but this is the 21st century, I hope eliminating the exploitation and the cruelty and the suffering and making beautiful, well made products that you’re proud to wear, comfortable to wear and ultimately convenient to buy thanks to people like Adam Markey, right?
Adam Markey: Absolutely, and I set up a discount code for any of your listeners who may want to give any of these shoes a try.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, great! Tell us about it.
Adam Markey: Sure, if you go to the site. It’s a Sole and Stone. Um, and any purchases you put in the discount code Caryn. A, you get 20% off and obviously you still get the free shipping and the free return if you need to return it. But, I will say after, you know, we just started out after a few dozen orders, no one’s returned them. These are good products.
Caryn Hartglass: Nice. Well this is very exciting and I’m glad to have found you because you just launched what about a month ago?
Adam Markey: Ah, yeah, end of April. So, about five weeks.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. Five weeks. Very, very exciting. Well, the people who are looking for vegan products are very passionate about finding the ones they like and finding them. I think you’ll find in the long term a very loyal customer base and a
Adam Markey: Yep.
Caryn Hartglass: I want to repeat this offer that Adam is giving us so anyone who’s interested in checking out SoleandStone.com and that’s sole like s-o-l-e. Soleandstone.com. A, he’s offering a 20% discount and all you have to do is put in my name, C-a-r-y-n. Now, does that matter capital or lower case or capitals or does it matter?
Adam Markey: No, it shouldn’t matter.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. C-a-r-y-n. You have to remember how to spell my name because not everybody spells Caryn the way I do.
Adam Markey: If you forget you could just hit one of the contact us icons and send me a note. Which we’re still a small operation and so I’ll be reached immediately and help anyone out.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s awesome. Now do you have any long term intention of opening a store front?
Adam Markey: Ah, no. I like the calmer side of things it’s kind of where my background is and it’s actually kind of where I think a lot of it trend for um, attire and especially with men’s footwear is going. Um, now you said earlier guys don’t really like to shop and so offering a site where they could just point and click and then get on with things.
Caryn Hartglass: I agree with you.
Adam Markey: It’s appealing with a lot of people.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, I don’t like shopping either and it’s a very frustrating thing to go to a store when you can’t find the size you’re looking for and more and more unfortunately because of cost and other things the service is not very good in stores. Sometimes the inventory is a mess and this way you have a very clean and neat interface online. You don’t have to worry about all of the mess. That’s your problem, Adam. [Laughter].
Adam Markey: Yeah, yeah. It’s intended to be as simplistic and straight forward as possible.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes. Well, as everyone knows it’s not a food product. This show is called Its All About Food, but I often like to feature different products that are not necessarily things that we can eat, but are things that don’t use exploited, non-human animals in the process and this is one of them and shoes are a really important thing. Especially because a lot of people think wrongly that shoes and leather are almost a byproduct. Byproduct of animals being used for food and it’s a very unique process all its own, and leather whether it supports another business or not is a cruel and unnecessary material that we don’t need to be using.
Thank you Adam, for making a difference in this world. We need more people creating small businesses like you’re creating to give access to people who want to buy cruelty free, lovely, beautiful, useful comfortable, products with free shipping
Adam Markey: Absolutely. All I’m doing is creating the option. A, it’s there. It’s just as easy as you would get from any of the other larger retailer stores online.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, great! Adam, thank you so much for joining me. This was easy, wasn’t it?
Adam Markey: It was easy. Thanks so much! Enjoy California!
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. Thank you! Enjoy Georgia and the rain.
Adam Markey: [Laughter]. Ah, ha. Will do!
Caryn Hartglass: Good luck to you! Okay. You’re welcome. That was Adam Markey of the new online vegan footwear for men’s dress shoes store Sole and Stone and right now there are nine stunning shoes being featured and you get a 20% discount if you use my name, Caryn. C-a-r-y-n. So, I hope you can take advantage of that and benefit from it and remember women, you can wear men’s shoes. [Laughter]. My sister recommends it highly. You can go faster and higher. Okay. Let’s just take a very quick break and I’ll be right back to talk about some things that are near and dear to my heart.
Transcribed by Nanette Gagyi, August 14, 2016