A Shop’s Turkish Connection
From cobalt blue to red to deep pewter, the colorful shoes passers-by will see in the window of Sabah, a small shopfront on Main Street in Amagansett next to Tack Trunk, are back this summer, still as a pop-up enterprise, but one that will be there for longer than last year, until Labor Day.
Sabah means morning in both Turkish and Arabic.
Mickey Ashmore, who worked in finance strategy for Microsoft in Istanbul for two years and then in finance in Manhattan, in February celebrated Sabah’s newly renovated four-story workshop in Gaziantep in southeast Turkey, once a transit city for ISIS and a Silk Road town that is home to a million Syrian refugees, five of whom went through a training program to become stitchers at the workshop. The program is also open to women, and three Syrian women are being trained.
As a result of Mr. Ashmore’s redesign of a traditional slipper, there are now 30 men stitching 3,000 pairs of shoes a month. The business started with five stitchers working for the family who owned the workshop and who had been making curly-toed Turkish slippers since 1887.
They work with 10 to 15 tanneries, buying pre-tanned and pre-dyed sheets of leather that are ready to be made into shoes. Once they are cut and stitched, which takes about three hours, the damp leather has to be fitted in a mold or on a last and allowed to set for 24 hours. Child-size shoes have been added to the offerings, as have slip-ons, and all have rubber soles that can be replaced once they wear out.
Sabah shops can also be found in the East Village, Dallas, which is Mr. Ashmore’s hometown, Tokyo, Washington, D.C., Venice Beach, Calif., and even in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.