Ah, a woman and a closet full of beautiful shoes.
It is a pairing that can be seen as glamorous (as in fictitious TV land with Carrie Bradshaw of Sex and the City), obsessive (think politician Imelda Marcos) or downright inspirational (as is the case with business CEO Angella Luyk).
Angella Luyk loves shoes, as evidenced by what she wears to business meetings and galas, but also by her two walk-in closets of meticulously organized floor-to-ceiling shoeboxes and clear totes.
She buys the shoes for herself, receives them as surprise gifts from her husband, and gives pairs of shoes to friends and employees “just because.”
As a CEO of a million-dollar business, you may envision Luyk in a corner office on the top floor of a downtown office building, with shoes matched to variety of Hillary-style pantsuits.
But alas, she runs two janitorial companies — Midnight Janitorial Inc. and One-Stop Janitorial and Carpet Supply Co. And does she sell cleaning supplies to customers wearing glamorous Pradas, standing on a cement floor in a warehouse? Yes. Yes, she does.
“Shoes make me extremely happy,” Luyk says. “I even wear shoes to bed when I’m depressed.”
The self-made executive is a native of the city of Rochester, and while growing up had just two pairs of shoes: school shoes and summer sandals. Today, however, at age 39 she is surrounded by more than 130 pairs of shoes in her Irondequoit home.
“As Cinderella once said, ‘Shoes changed my life!” Luyk says.
Luyk has experienced health issues in recent years, which have required hospital stays that produced few answers for her symptoms and also weight gain from taking steroids.
“But no matter what size you are, shoes always fit,” she says, with a big smile.
“And when your shoes are fabulous, people don’t look here,” she says, pointing to her midriff and then running her hand down her leg pointing to her feet. “They look here, at your shoes.”
She buys her shoes in Rochester as well as Boston and New York City and is looking forward to shopping during an upcoming trip to Paris, a celebration of her 40th birthday and 10th wedding anniversary.
In Rochester she hits the Coach store, DSW, Diva Shoes, Nine West, and Lord & Taylor.
“If it’s new and fashionable, it’s in her closet,” says Frank Moretti owner of Diva Shoes on State Street in Rochester. “It has been so great to get to know Angella as a customer and a friend, because she’s so upbeat and we just love her.
“For her, shoes are the focal point of her outfit, regardless if the shoe is from a major retailer or my shop because she only care how cute the shoe is,” he says.
Her shoes range from a $5.99 bargain-rack special to a $2,000 pair of blue high-heeled Ferragamos, one of four pair that cost more than $1,000.
An inexpensive pair of shoes with character, though, makes her just as happy.
“When I was having a biopsy, my husband, Harry, talked me through it, saying ‘When we get out of here, we are going to get those Coach shoes, the green ones,” Luyk says. “And I was crying and said, ‘Tell me more, tell me more.'”
She found another form of coping while hospitalized — at one point recovering from a four-day coma — by writing a book longhand, in her hospital bed during a blood transfusion. The 2011 book, Wisdom in a Traffic Jam, is about building a successful business. And when the book came out, how did she celebrate? She had a pair of shoes made, tailored to feet.
Dress (and rewards) for success
Luyk, president-elect of the Rochester Women’s Network, also conducted from a hospital bed the daily responsibilities of her businesses, where she oversees 60 employees.
Her work has earned her many regional and national awards. And for her business victories, like her medical procedures, she has gotten new shoes.
“All of these shoes have a story,” Luyk says, as she points to different boxes (each with color photo of the pair inside taped to the front). “These shoes I bought when my wedding dress came in made wrong, these I bought at Philene’s Basement in Boston when I learned good news from the doctor, and these with the stars and the moon I bought because that’s my Midnight Janitorial logo.”
And while husband Harry buys her shoes, as well as jewelry and suits, to mark her health and business milestones, she says she realizes most men don’t completely “get it.”
She wants her second book to be titled Shoes, Shoes, Shoes — Why Men Don’t Get It, But Every Woman Does.
“Only women truly understand, how some days you feel funky so you wear your funky shoes,” Luyk says. “Shoes make me feel confident and joyful, and who doesn’t want to feel like that?”
Originally published in the Democrat & Chronicle on June 27th, 2013