By ROBIN WOODS
For Montclair Local
The first days of school always called for new shoes in my family, and I’m all in with that. I have a large, eclectic collection but continue to buy new footwear on days that begin with a T, including today and tomorrow. I believe that you can’t have too many pairs of shoes, so a trip to Shoe Sector excited me.
Originally a pop-up store at 5 Church St., it opened as a permanent brick-and-mortar business in December 2018. Owners Olga and Ali Kose first sold apparel and shoes in Passaic before choosing the location in Montclair.
The family-owned business has a carefully chosen selection of American and European brands, from infant size up to adult size 14. Olga and Ali work as a team, with Olga covering their website, social media and IT. Ali’s in charge of staff, finance and bulk orders, although they both are involved anywhere they’re needed.
You can choose from casual lifestyle sneakers, flats and sandals to men’s dress shoes, although you’re not limited to selecting gender-specific styles. Most of the clientele at Shoe Sector is female, but Birkenstock, Elegante and Lacoste brands are unisex.
Both Olga and Ali Kose were born outside of the U.S., with Olga emigrating from Russia and Ali from Turkey, adding to the wonderfully diverse mix we see in town. I asked about their personal shoe collections, and Olga said, “I own a lot of shoes and wear a size 7 or 8, and sometimes keep shoes returned from online orders at shoesector.com.”
Ali has many pairs of shoes as well, and he said, “I played basketball in Turkey. Nike was my favorite shoe. I was in heaven, and thought that they made me jump higher. Now, I play soccer and kick box with my kids.”
Although the pandemic slowed in-store sales, customers still ordered shoes and apparel online by Alo, Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein. Olga said, “Business has been better since May and June, since people feel more comfortable shopping inside our store. Masks are optional but not required. We want everyone to have a nice experience with us.”
Did I buy shoes while I was at the store? Of course I did. Store associate Kate Gayduk found one pair of size 6 Cole Haan periwinkle blue sandals in stock for me to model for photos. They fit me like a glove, in a color I’ve never seen before in footwear. It was Kismet.
The Gravity Vault
Even while wearing new footwear, does life sometimes make you want to climb the walls? Well, there’s a new place in town for you to visit and get your indoor rock climbing and belaying on — The Gravity Vault on Seymour Plaza, right across from the Wellmont Theater sign. I got a bit confused while walking on the Bloomfield Avenue side and ended up at the new apartment building. After walking around the corner, I found the place in the newly constructed pedestrian and business area.
Owner and founder Lucas Kovalcik opened The Gravity Vault on Aug. 7 after coming up with the concept while living in California. He’s an inveterate and well-trained climber, partnering with an old high school friend to bring climbing to New Jersey. Montclair is his fourth location, joining ones in Chatham, Hoboken and Upper Saddle River. He also franchised seven others, with new spaces opening soon in New York and Pennsylvania.
You need a lot of space to fit this type of gym, at least 12,000 square feet, with 35- to 40-foot ceilings in the climbing area. The front area has merchandise and gear for rock climbing, including shoes, clothing and magnesium carbonate indoor chalk to keep your hands dry for a better grip. Flat, hard-soled closed shoes must be worn for safety on all of the deeply padded floors, so leave your high heels at home.
The Gravity Vault has excellent air conditioning and ventilation, along with being a bright, colorful, well-maintained and equipped place to visit for a few hours or to spend the day. Yoga and fitness, private coaching, youth climbing teams and birthday parties are also offered here.
My lack of good balance and steady gait due to my struggles with benign positional vertigo precluded me from walking in the padded areas or climbing, even in the kids party room. It’s a marvel of computer and lighting technology, and I watched facility manager Julissa Chevres and Lucas play a fast-paced version of Whack-a-Mole, climbing and using their hands and feet to get the highest scores and defeat the cartoon mole.
A birthday package for 10-12 kids includes climbing and pizza, supervised by a staff member for each five guests in attendance. Private instruction is also available, and all guests have an orientation session before starting.
I asked Lucas about his concept for The Gravity Vault, and he said, “We have a warm, inviting staff and a clean and well-lit facility. It’s educationally based and introduces people to the exciting sport of rock climbing. My business degree in the hospitality area prepared me to offer excellent customer service and a good product. I like to work and play at the same time, and bring my three daughters, ages 6, 10 and 13, with me as often as possible. They enjoy climbing and can spend the day doing so.”
Try something new or improve your rope and rock climbing skills while having a good time.
In this article
Robin Woods is a local girl-about town, writing about activities, stores, restaurants and interesting people that catch her eye. She’s written memoirs and personal essays, as well as music and fashion columns for various New York City newspapers. Her writing awards include the Shirley Chisholm Award for Journalism and the Director’s Award of the Essex County Legacies Essay contest.