LA
03/27/2012 07:39 pm ET

Shoe Vending Machine: Los Angeles Gets Its First Emergency Footwear Vending Machine

Story comes courtesy of LA Weekly

By Gendy Alimurung

Salvation has come to the
high-heeled hordes of L.A. nightlife, in the form of the city's first
flat-shoe vending machine. Squat, unobtrusive, the size of a dresser,
the thing is currently located beside the women's restroom at the Colony
in Hollywood.

"We did six or seven pairs last week, not a whole
lot," says distributor Ashley Ross, glancing brightly at the machine.
"But it's still early. We're a little bit new to the L.A. scene. This is
the first of many, is the plan."

It's a Thursday night at the
club, and Ross and business partner Lindsay Klimitz are restocking
shoes. Called Rollasoles, they cost $19.95 (or "an easy $20"). They are
basically ballet flats. Soft and squashy, they drop out of the machine
rolled up in a plastic can.

"The first time we came to L.A., we had no idea the streets were so bad," Klimitz says, popping cans into the machine.

"The
streets here are so jagged," Ross adds. "A lot of girls that aren't
from L.A., they come here expecting to walk in heels down Sunset? Yeah.
Good luck. You need backup."

Ross, 25, and Klimitz, 26, are lean,
pretty, leggy girls who became friends while partying in the Las Vegas
scene. They could not have predicted they would be pioneers in the
emergency-footwear business, though they did realize early on that they
both wanted to be their own bosses and to work in fashion.

"We're
doing black with gold studs, black with white rhinestones, black with
black rhinestones, polka dots," Klimitz says. "We want them to be
relevant to every girl's wardrobe. When you go out, you have tiny
purses, so the shoes had to roll up as small as possible."

Along
with the tiny purse and the tiny dress, the towering stiletto completes
the holy trinity of sexiness, the club girl's uniform. Klimitz and Ross
have built up considerable stiletto stamina over the years. Klimitz can
go two hours; Ross, three. "Two hours is the limit for a lot of girls,"
Ross concedes. "If you put a few drinks in them, probably one hour."

Past
that point, only discipline and peer pressure keep the shoes on. "I
would say to her, 'I don't care, you're not taking your shoes off,'‚Äâ"
Ross says. "It is not a good look. It's not classy."

Klimitz nods.
"Both of us are not really people that would walk barefoot. I know a
lot of girls are into walking barefoot -- when they're in just too much
pain, they can't take it. But me and her would literally suffer through
the pain."

"Mmmhmm," Ross says. "We would suffer."

"We would
complain," Klimitz continues. "You go out in your heels to dinner. Then
you go to the nightclub. By the time you get to the nightclub you can
barely stand."

In the cold, sober light of brunch after one
particularly atrocious night out, they discussed the situation, feet
bleeding. You don't want to leave the club, drive to a store and come
back. Plus, retail stores are closed by the time nightlife heats up. A
vending machine on-site would be ideal. You can buy any number of things
from vending machines nowadays. Why not shoes?

They tried
stocking a cigarette machine, but the shoes kept getting stuck. For a
while they imagined building a shoe vending machine from scratch, and
even went so far as to price prototypes. But the British company
Rollasole beat them to the punch. Rather than reinvent the wheel,
Klimitz and Ross instead bought the rights to manufacture and distribute
Rollasole in America.

In the year since, they've installed four
machines: one in the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, in front of Tao
nightclub; one in Vanity at the Hard Rock casino; one at the Tropicana --
and now the one at the Colony.

They sell 30 pairs or so a week at
Vanity, although on New Year's Eve they sold 26 pairs in one night.
Club owners like the shoes because girls who wear them stay out later
(an average of 40 minutes longer, according to a survey Klimitz and Ross
commissioned), dance more and, one assumes, drink more. Guys like the
shoes because it keeps girls out partying for the night. Girls like the
shoes because, well, they're shoes.

Klimitz and Ross can't help
but reminisce about what they endured prior to their innovation. Klimitz
used to bring Band-Aids to clubs. Ross would beg bandages from the
security guards. They both tried inserts (which inevitably fall out of
the shoe) and insoles (which take up space, making the shoes tighter).

"Or
we would switch shoes," Klimitz says. "Like, 'Oh my God, my shoes are
killing me, I need a break. Let's switch.'‚Äâ" The girl with the shorter
heel takes the bullet and slips on the offending stiletto.

One of their friends is known for bringing a pair of flip-flops to clubs. Other girls look at her with envy.

As
a last (or first) resort, some girls ask their gentlemen friends to
carry them. Rollasole U.K.'s founder, in fact, created the product
because he was tired of giving his girlfriend piggyback rides home from
clubs.

"I have a pair of stilettos -- and she actually saw me fall in them -- that's just under five inches," Klimitz says.

"Mmmhmm," murmurs Ross. "Gotta be tall."

"And
I don't care what girls say," Klimitz adds, "no heel is comfortable.
After three hours? Regardless if they cost $50 or $500 or $5,000."

It seems an obvious solution, but would they consider just not wearing heels in the first place?

In unison, they declare emphatically, "No."

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