If visiting Athens and you find yourself wandering round the Monastriaki area, as you undoubtedly will, make sure you visit Stavros Melissinos’ third generation sandal-making shop now run by his son, Pantelis, a poet and playwright, now sandal maker.
I just love the story detailing the family history of the shop that can be found on their website:
“Gheorgios Melissinos, Stavros Melissinos’ father, established the store in 1927, at 89 Pandrossou St., at the foot of the Acropolis, in the Monastiraki area -adjacent to the ancient agora of Athens. From the late 20s to the early 50s the store served as a small-scale shoe factory that produced rubber-sole shoes -that were meant for hunters or the working class- in addition to the luxury line of shoes that were designed for the upper classes (the Queen of Greece used to visit the store in order to buy her climbing shoes in person).
When Gheorgios Melissinos passed away, in 1954, his son Stavros inherited a business that was on the verge of a serious disaster, due to the political and economic turmoil in post-war Greece. The first tourists appeared, in the early 50s, like a much-needed drizzle in an arid land and among them was that unknown foreign elegant lady, a choreographer who placed an order for the very first six pairs of Greek sandals since the fall of the Ancient Athenian Republic and then the Beatles came… and then… well, the rest is history!”
Over the years the shop has seen hundreds of international stars and royalty visit their shop including Jeremy Irons, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jackie Onassis and Sophia Loren. All who have subsequently had a shoe named after them! With over 30 styles to choose from and available in a delightful natural tan colour make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to choose your favourite sandal!
The designs are generally speaking unisex and are hand made and crafted from start to finish. Using high quality calf leathers from Northern Greece that are tanned on the island of Crete, the leather has its own natural marks and texture, making every pair of sandals unique. They also use shoe-nails and a special leather glue to bond the various parts together. The top part of the sole is made of leather and the bottom part is made of rubber. However, all leather sandlas can be made (but be warned they can be more slippery) for an extra charge of 5.00 Euros per pair.
The natural leather sandals take on a beautiful dark colour over time and will also shape to your foot and stretch a little so ensure the fit is firm. Specialty shoes can also be designed using a range of colourful leathers including gold and silver that are popular for weddings and other special occasions.
On my visit to the Poet Sandal-maker my sandal of choice was the No 12 Galiko that cost 18 Euro. Prices start at about 15 Euros – a bargain for hand-crafted history!
You will find the Poet Sandal-maker at: 2, Aghias Theklas St., in the Psirri area, next to Monastiraki Square, in Athens, Greece.