By Kris House, Rushville Chamber of Commerce
You may be asking, what are WillyMocs?
They are custom hand-sewn shoes, made from only the finest leathers. The one and only shop is on Main Street in Rushville. Erik Milton and his wife Jodi opened the doors this past spring.
One might ask why Rushville?
Jodi, is the daughter of Ron and Carolyn (Janssen) Hoffman, both RHS alumni.
Erik recalls first coming to town to visit Jodi’s grandmother, Kathryn Janssen, sixteen or seventeen years ago. Ron and Carolyn then began sharing their time here, from their home in Colorado, which brought the young couple back more often.
In 201, Erik and Jodi bought a home in town, as mom and dad had moved here permanently. The Milton’s made Rushville their permanent address in 2019.
Willy O’Neal, Milton’s grandfather, began the business about forty years ago in the mountains of Colorado. After moving around the western part of the USA, working in other lines of jobs, he decided to turn back to his very first trade that he learned.
At the age of 15, Grandpa O’Neal, had begun the shoe crafting, hand sewing shoes in Maine. He was employed by Dexter Shoe Co., LL Bean, and BASS to name a few.
O’Neal was ready to retire prior to COVID approached Erik, his only grandson, to take over the trade. Milton had already spent many hours with his grandfather in and out of the shoe shop. He did not hesitate to continue the family business.
The past three years Milton has spent in Arizona, with his grandfather, off and on, learning from him.
“Grandpa was still crafting shoes for his customers, right up to moving day in April,” said Milton.
As the shop opened in Rushville, Milton had plenty of orders to continue to fill, as well as attend several Art & Trade Fairs this past summer.
He attended them in Jackson Wyo., Aspen, Colo., and Park City, Utah.
These, as well as the reorders has Milton busy with deliver dates well into the winter of 2024. It takes him about ten days to complete one pair of shoes.
One may wonder, what is the process of making a custom hand-sewn pair of shoes? Milton, first, traces both feet on a legal size business folder and measures the arch of both and takes note of any other important information about one’s feet. Then the purchaser begins to pick the style, choices range from boat shoes to dress shoes to hiking/hunting boots. The type of leather then is chosen, many exotic leathers such as ostrich, alligator, crocodile, lizard, elephant to cow are available. The colors are unlimited, and if Milton doesn’t have it, and can get it, he will.
The sole of each shoe has a medical grade of orthotic foam between the sole and inner lining. The shoe sizes range from babies to a man’s 18 and he can fit any width.
The children/youth “Wee-Willy’s” are a soft sole shoe that are made with pieces left over after using the larger hides to make adult shoes.
In the back room of the shop you will find over 40,000 “feet files “alphabetically arranged by customer’s last names and several 3x5 index card boxes full of records, from the early days of Grandpa Willy’s “bookkeeping.” This is a business that modern technology will never play a big “foot in”.
Milton encourages you stop by and look at the window displays he has. He is very willing to take orders “in house” at the shop as well.