Hidden within The Bell Street Mall in Heidelberg West is an old-world vintage gem, McLaughlan Comfort Shoes.
Here you will find Ian and Rona McLaughlan, The Malls only original business owners who are still operating the family business that was opened by Ian’s father back in 1958, shortly after the construction of the athletes’ village when Melbourne hosted the Olympic Games.
They took over in the 1970’s and little has changed with the store décor. It has floor to ceiling shelves full of shoe boxes, vintage furniture that has been there since the beginning and beautiful wooden ladders that were made by Jeff Kennets father way back in the 1950’s.
Since reopening after the stage 4 lockdown, Rona has been kept busy with a steady flow of loyal customers who have been shopping at the store for the last 50 years, as well as new customers wanting to get back out and start walking again. Some even travelling from regional Victoria due to the store’s reputation for excellent customer service, receiving “A good old-fashioned fit up” as Rona explains “We’re a family business which is different from some stores today, we take our time and we pride ourselves on serving our customers and keeping them happy and comfortable”.
Specialising in Orthopaedic fittings, the store has a range of shoes including Klouds, Steplite and Propet that come in EE and EEE sizes. Ian also offers an in-house repair service.
Other women’s shoes include Naot, Cabello, Saimon, Arcopedico and Aco, with the men’s range including Rockport, Slatters, Hush Puppies, Lotto and Sfida.
Also, with winter coming, there are plenty of slippers in stock for both men and women. Crosby, Panda and Spanish brands Celia Ruiz and DeValverde. They are comfortable, Eco friendly, made from bamboo and use materials that are antibacterial and washable. Perfect for nursing homes and hospitals.
The Bell Street Mall and McLaughlan Comfort Shoes offer the ultimate shopping experience with a vintage feel. There is ample parking in the nearby car park and you can also get there with public transport, bus routes 205, 350, 513, 549 and 903.
As for Ian and Rona, they have no plans to retire any day soon “I think they’ll have to carry us out of here because we really enjoy the store and still love the Mall” Rona says smiling as she heads off to her favourite coffee shop next door.
McLaughlan Comfort Shoes, 47-49 The Bell Street Mall Shopping Centre, corner Bell Street and Oriel Rd, Heidelberg West.
Open 9.30am – 5pm Monday – Friday and 9.30am – 2pm Saturday, Sundays closed.
Words and photography by Tatiana Kooraram