The woman behind Cheltenham's legendary Keith Scarrott Shoes takes on The Raikes Journal's 20 Question challenge

Written by: Andrew Merrell | Posted 19 September 2020 8:50

It is unlikely indeed her fantasy dinner party would be anything but stylish, not least because it would include Grace Coddington, the former legendary creative director of American Vogue. 

On the guest list would also be a certain Italian shoe designer who honed his skills in California before creating an empire in Florence in celebration of the perfect and most beautiful footwear. 

But it would be interesting to see who received the most attention, of a trio which would also include a woman who represents their host's other passion – from the world of horse racing, Cheltenham Gold Cup winning trainer Henrietta Knight. 

For years we have been told independent high street retail is no more as on-line takes over the world, yet her business, Keith Scarrott Shoes, has not only survived but shone and inspired. 

For those who simply fall in love with beautiful design and quality – and are lured to Cheltenham by its boutique shops – her store has remained a ‘must-visit’. 

It not only sells, it is a creative powerhouse which designs and has made (in Italy or Spain, of course) its own stylish seasonal ranges, and boasts a history going back to when her father first founded the store in 1975. 

This week, Sophie Scarrott, tried on The Raikes Journal’s 20 questions for size. 

Question: What is your favourite film or series? 

Answer: I’m currently enjoying watching Inside Missguided – Made in Manchester, a fly on the wall documentary featuring a young online fashion brand. It is fascinating to see another side of the industry. 

Q: You’re hosting a dinner party and can invite any three guests from any time in history. Who would they be and why? 

A: Grace Coddington, Creative director of American Vogue, I love her creative and complex photoshoots.  

Salvatore Ferragamo, my Father took me to see his exhibition ‘The Art of the Shoe’ at the V&A when I was 10 – it got me hooked on footwear!  

And finally, three-time Cheltenham Gold Cup winning trainer Henrietta Knight, racing is my passion and I’d just love to chat to anyone who’s trained Cheltenham Festival winners.  

Q: What is the best bit of your job? 

A: There is no better feeling than when a stranger comes up to me, sticks out their leg and says, “I’m wearing your boots!”. I will never get used to it, it is such a compliment and an honour.  

Q: What is the worst part of your job? 

 A: I’m really lucky that I’m one of those people who truly love and enjoy what they do.  

Q: Who was your childhood hero or the person you looked up to? 

 A: My dad, Keith, who started this business 45 years ago from nothing and built it into the successful and well-loved brand it is today.  

Q: Where is your favourite place in Gloucestershire? 

A: I love to go to the Washpool at the top of Cleeve Hill, which is the highest point in Gloucestershire, it’s such a lovely place to take my dog Roxy for a walk.

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Q: What advice would you give to anyone starting out now? 

A: I’d say take risks. When I took the business over 15 years ago, I introduced the first over the knee boot, Pollino. My Father wasn’t convinced it would sell well but I was adamant of its success – it’s still one of our best sellers to this day! 

Q: Was there a mistake or piece of bad luck which changed things for the better? 

A: I was on a buying trip in Milan struggling to find the perfect trainer for our new collection. As I was walking back to my hotel I tripped and hurt myself, I went into the nearest shop to sit and compose myself when I looked up and found the perfect trainer - talk about good luck! 

Q: What is your favourite piece of music? 

A: The Planets by Gustav Holst, as a fellow Cheltonian lots of school trips and assemblies were based on him, so nostalgic! 

Q: What qualities do you look for in a new member of staff? 

A: Beaming smile, happy nature and willing to work hard! 

Q: What is your favourite pudding?  

A: My Mum makes the most incredible cakes – so anything made by her is delicious! 

Q: Has the coronavirus pandemic changed how you see the world? 

A: While it has been hard being a business owner during the pandemic, it has made me appreciate things a lot more, and perhaps learn to live every moment to its fullest.  

Q: If it was in the name of pleasure – would it be car, bicycle, walk, run, swim? 

A: I’m really into fitness, so the last four sound like a great way to let off steam! 

Q: What is the best thing about living/working in Gloucestershire? 

A: I love Cheltenham and the close community feel it brings, nothing beats walking down the road and seeing various familiar faces, from friends and family to loyal customers. 

Q: If you could wave a magic wand to achieve what you wanted to at work, what would it be? 

A: Copious amounts of money in the business bank account!  

Q: What’s your biggest frustration? 

A: How quick time flies by! Has anyone got enough time in the day?  

Q: If you could start again and had to do something else, what would it be? 

A: I’m very passionate about sports, such as horse racing and hockey, so maybe become a full-time trainer or coach.  

Q: Cheltenham Festival, any of the town’s others festivals, Giffords Circus, Stroud Fringe, Gloucester Rugby v Bath, Three Choirs Festival, Cirencester food Festival, evensong at Tewkesbury Abbey, or Newent Onion Fayre? And why? 

A: Without shadow of a doubt Cheltenham Festival – the greatest show on turf! 

Q: If you had to recommend a pub or restaurant in Gloucestershire, what would it be and why?  

A: Kibou Sushi is my favourite place to eat – I always order the EbiStak and Beef Tataki dishes, they’re delicious!   

Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time? 

A: Continuing to build my business into the best it can be. 

Q: What would you like to be remembered for? 

A: For being a good friend to all. 

Sophie Scarrott is the boss of Keith Scarrott Shoes, 8 Promenade, Cheltenham GL50 1LR.

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