Shoe store sells cleats that help customers get a grip on ice

March 10, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

The harsh winter has been kind indeed to a Westminster shoe-repair store that carries the latest in ice-repellent footwear.

Ice Walkers are metal cleats attached to an adjustable strap.

Those venturing outdoors to tackle icy paths can pause first to wrap the strap around the instep. The steel grip plate goes under the foot, and the wearer's weight makes the points bite into the ice for pedestrian security.

"I have sold quite a few in the past couple weeks," said Tom Andrews, owner of Towne Shoe Repair, which, he says, is the only Carroll County outlet for the product. "People who come here have been hunting for something like this everywhere."

Last year Mr. Andrews saw a flier on the product, distributed by Covell Enterprises in Warwick, N.Y., and bought all the available stock.

The ice arrived just about the time of his first shipment, and business has been as brisk as the weather. He said he has sold about 100 pairs of the cleats since the winter of 1994 turned sidewalks and driveways into skating rinks.

"Oil companies and fire departments have been big customers," said Mr. Andrews.

He said he is his own best advertisement. "I wear them and they work great," said Mr. Andrews, as he slipped the walkers around his work shoes in a few seconds.

Word of mouth and customers who slid by his window display made Ice Walkers the hot-ticket item in winter footwear.

"Keeping them in stock has been the hardest part," he said. "I have had to keep waiting lists."

The cleats come in three styles costing $5 to $10 a pair. The $10 elastic-strap model allows the quickest attachment and is the most popular. Customers buy the $8 buckle-on version, he said, be cause the strap looks sturdier.

"The buckle works better with a bigger foot, too," he said. "Elastic won't give as much when you wear a size 13 wide."

Women really went for the smallest pair and the store has an ample supply, but Mr. Andrews said the manufacturer has discontinued the style.

Customers are welcome to test walk on the carpet at the shoe repair store.

A zippered plastic case allows buyers to carry along their Ice Walkers. Mr. Andrews noted the danger of lending.

"I gave my wife my pair and fell three times without them," he said. "Now I keep a pair in my pocket."

The product carries no guarantees and a caution against over-confidence on the ice.

"They are worth a try," said Mr. Andrews. "A broken arm would cost 20 times more."

A block away on Main Street, Pete Davis, owner of Davis Shoe Repair, said he used to carry a similar product. He stopped stocking during recent, milder winters.

"This would have been a good year for them," he observed.

In Eldersburg, Village Shoe Repair has mended a few pairs of Ice Walkers for local mail carriers.

"If I had known we would have this winter, I would have stocked them," said the owner, Jake Parker.

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