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@Work: Zora

Jan. 13, 2005 – "Ok, don't move." Zora Galvin is performing the first step of sandal making: tracing the outline of a customer's foot onto a piece of paper. As Zora works, the customer waves her arms in conversation causing her feet to rock the tiniest bit. Zora doesn't even look up as she repeats her command, "Don’t move anything." The customer stands still as a statue while her measuring is completed.
Is it this attention to detail that makes a pair of Zora's sandals or limin' shoes so perfect? Zora is the first to correct that assumption.
"Everybody has quirks in their feet," she says. She walks around the store demonstrating various walking patterns – she slides, she shuffles, she drags one foot. No pair of feet is a mirror image, and in Zora's case, neither are the shoes.
After you've gone through the fitting process and have your shoes in your hands, you'll probably notice some variation from the left shoe to the right. But once they're on your feet you'll feel like Cinderella – the fit has never been so good. "The sandals may not be the same, but they look right on your feet."
She should know. Zora has been handcrafting sandals in the Virgin Islands for more than 40 years, and by now has the process down to a science. What she hasn't done is speed up production. Choose a shoe style, leather color, and heel height, and you'll be walking around on an uncut piece of leather for about two weeks before they go back for finishing work. The closest they've come to mass production is a ready-made sandal that can simply be cut down to fit your foot.
"They [customers] have gotten pretty picky from 40 years of sandal making."
Zora opened in 1962 with about eight styles of sandals (many of which are still available), and she did all the work on her own. Now there's a full production floor, with leather workers, a seamstress and a shoe repairman. But just as it was in the old days, a pair of Zora's sandals or limin' shoes is created one stitch at a time.
The past year has seen a few cosmetic innovations in the shoes. Now the color palette offers everything from basic brown to orange, green and lavender. Or you can choose to add a leather flower to the shoe.
Zora also carries canvas bags of every shape and size. In addition to more traditional backpacks and shoulder bags in several sizes, you can choose bags shaped like piranhas, sharks, snappers, birds, turtles, sting rays and cats. Customers choose the pack, zippers, canvas color and lettering. Anything can be customized at Zora's. "If someone wants something we work it out."
The store is again selling wool Tibetan rugs, bedspreads from India, and custom jewelry by Timisa which is made in the store. "She has a great eye for design."
Zora of St. Thomas Sandalmaker is located at 34 Norre Gade. Stop by and take a peak at the inventory, or log onto www.zora-vi.com.

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