I love it here on Cape Cod and have been visiting this magical place I was eleven. Even with that history, there seems so much unexplored about The Cape. In summer it is all gussied up and super fun to dive into. Winter brings quiet and Cape Cod becomes beautifully desolate. The further out the more palpable the loneliness. Emptiness oozes and things feel sort of out of control, . . . mixed with cozy. The tourists leave, sea thrashes, winds howl, and the skeleton crew hunkers down. It occurs to me each visit, how fragile the Cape Cod landscape is and how many many people demand their vacation existence from it. Thousands of tourists flood the highway all day all summer long. Beach parking lots are filled with long waiting lines. The grocery stores are mazes of mostly unfamiliar shoppers getting stock for their week on the beach, the dumps are overflowing and now a lot of Cape Cod’s well water is not potable. As I strive toward Net Zero Living, my carbon footprint is never far from my mind. The fragile yet ancient lands we are frolicking upon cannot manage our waste. Broken beach toys, shoddily made sand chairs, discarded after a single season, deflated floaties, single flipflops, candy wrappers, bottle tops, picnic garbage, all of it – everywhere, constant reminders that our culture is accustomed to short-term-use products. Things that break and are thrown ‘away’ are the norm.
Yesterday, Ben and I enjoyed an evening out on the town, including dinner at Local 186. We had the good fortune of time to stroll from one end of Commercial Street in Provincetown, to the other. On our adventure we found a dingy, crooked sign inside a dirty plate glass window of a rowdy bar with a faded newspaper article about the man who made my father a pair of sandals 35 or 40 years ago. Could it be? I have actually searched around for this guy online to no avail – and there it was, down the alley and up a flight of weathered outdoor stairs, Victor Powell Workshop – Open 10-5. Closed Tuesdays.
Just a snippet of a truly memorable evening spent with my son.
Today I went back. I ordered a pair of handmade leather sandals from the last surviving sandal cobbler in Ptown. They cost a lot and could take 6 weeks to get on my feet yet I am so excited! Probably the last pair of sandals I will ever need to buy. Saving the planet from a whole bushel of wasted flip-flops and worn out plastic shoes while supporting traditional crafts, and learning from an amazingly accomplished maker. What could be better? I just wish I could take over his business when he’s ready to retire.
So this week’s Freak of the Week is not actually the typical cyber interview but more of an observation of a Freak from arm’s length. Hope you like it.
Victor Powell and his lady, Ardis, are year ‘round residents of Provincetown, on the very tip of the Cape Cod peninsula of Massachusetts. They have been working from their second floor home/studio down the alley and 'round back, right next to The Lobster Pot on Commercial Street. They are likely both in their seventies, based on their stories, but to look at them they seem much younger; Fit and hip and very active. They have a pretty great website explaining their process and options available which was actually really surprising to me.
Walking into their tidy ocean view workshop (atop a pretty rickety flight of stairs, across a flat roof, and passed a window box full of the tiniest lawn you have ever seen) landed me in a world of sandal magic. Every detail of interior matched the surreal vibe of the street below on a different, quieter but equally as captivating level. We arrived right at closing time having spent the afternoon visiting an old dear and captivating in her own right, friend, Alice Brock. She had called ahead to let Victor know we were coming – they are neighbors and friends.
Just beyond the counter displaying all the different style sandal options, is a large and well worn work table with tools neatly in their places at arm’s reach. There is a relic industrial sewing machine, used for sail repair and a lovely display of all sorts of beautifully hand sewn leather bags from dainty purses to super sturdy brief cases. Belts are also hand made on the premises and are sized to order. They run $50-$165. The more expensive ones are beautifully riveted in a wide wavy pattern of brass dots. Victor told me this is a traditional Provincetown look. AhMaZinG~
I knew right away that I wanted sandals in the style he was wearing. He grabbed a large sheet of thick paper and dropped to his knees, pencil in hand, and carefully traced both of my feet in a quick minute. It was not a simple outline but included annotations for my arch, and bone structure. He uses the drawings for shaping the footbed and strap placement. My feet feel comfortable just thinking about my new shoes!
He said they would be ready to ship in 4-6 weeks and I just can’t wait!!
You can learn all sorts of details about Victor’s process on his website. If you find yourself in Provincetown, I encourage you to look Victor and Ardis up. If you are not in Provincetown and would like a super wonderful pair of sandals that will last you many years, you can order them online from his site. There are detailed instructions there explaining how to place your order.