John Orr needed a pair of shoes.
Originally from Maine, Orr moved to South America shortly after meeting his wife, originally from Chile, in Columbus. About six years ago, when Orr lived with his wife in Iquique, a town on the northern tip of Chile about an hour from the Peruvian border, he visited a local clothing market.
“I found this pair of shoes that I was blown away with,” Orr told the Ledger-Enquirer. “The colors were vibrant. They jumped. The designs were really intricate and really interesting. So, I took a pair.
Of all the things he loved about South America – the terrain, the friendliness of the people, the vibrant history and culture and the history of the region – the shoes really caught his eye.
Orr wore the slip-on shoes all day, he said. He walked in it. He did some gardening work there. He wore them on the beach. He carried them in the Pacific Ocean and as a warehouse worker.
About two years later, the family returned to Columbus. Orr, however, just couldn’t shake the feeling of always being near the ocean and the mountains. He missed the relaxed feeling of living in Chile.
“How can I get people to feel this? Orr remembered wondering. “How can I get this energy here? “
Orr then looked down and his eyes fixed on his shoes – the same shoes he had bought years earlier in the clothing market.
“This is the ticket,” he said. “I have to find a way to get more of these shoes because the shoes encapsulated that feeling I had living there.”
The idea for Paxx Shoes was born.
Start from nothing
When Orr and his wife moved to Columbus, they were basically starting over.
“We had homemaking, but we were more or less starting from zero,” Orr said.
In early 2018, he started sending emails and making calls, eventually finding a manufacturer in Lima, Peru. The shoes are all handcrafted, usually by a family and not mass produced.
Orr worked with the locals of SCORE, a nonprofit mentor for small businesses, and the UGA’s Small Business Development Center to develop a business plan and raise the necessary funds.
He officially founded Columbus-based Paxx Shoes in 2019.
Orr is also a dual graduate of StartUp Columbus, which offers a nine-week start-up program, start-up consulting services and more. The company participated in Market Days on Broadway for a year and sold shoes at two vendor fairs at Iron Works.
Paxx Shoes, still in its infancy, sells vegan shoes, all handmade, full of the colorful and intricate patterns that Orr loved since his time in South America.
“I could name a million different people I know, and they’ll all tell you either they love the beach, they love the mountains, or they love both,” Orr said. “The shoes embody that feeling for me.”
Complex designs, each with a story
The patterns seen on the shoes are derived from centuries-old cultural patterns from ancient Peru. Although the production process has been modernized, the designs themselves have remained “pretty close” to what they were thousands of years ago, Orr said.
Colors are dyed organically, using organic animal-free dyes.
“I can tell you with the utmost (confidence) they don’t fade,” Orr said. “(The colors) will not fade.”
Paxx Shoes sells shoes for men and women, low and high shoes, hats and t-shirts.
Designs, said Orr, are the “most desirable trait” of shoes. The styles, patterns and colors catch the eye of passers-by. But beyond the aesthetics, Orr said, the shoes are comfortable.
The inner lining is made from Peruvian chima cotton. The new shoe design is “premium construction,” he said, with a thicker sole, extra padding around the ankle and more cushion in the upper.
“I think once people put them on they got it pretty quickly,” Orr said.
Paxx Shoes is available on Facebook and Instagram, in addition to its website. The company is attending the Southern Lovin ‘Junkin’ Show at the Convention and Trade Center on September 25, where it will host a one-time 50% sale on the remaining 2020 shares.