HAVERHILL – Haverhill was once a thriving manufacturing center for women’s shoes, earning it the nickname ‘Queen Slipper City’.
For nearly 150 years, the shoe industry has thrilled downtown buildings, put food on the tables of local families, and made local captains of industry rich.
Although no one expects a return to those bygone days, one woman is looking to put Haverhill back on the shoemaking map, one small step at a time and on a scale that would surely be eclipsed by the industry of the past.
Charlotte Arivella, 34, from Haverhill, owns Thistle n Sage and makes soft leather baby shoes, bow ties, bow ties and other accessories by hand at home and sells them online. She also designs and sells custom onesies and toddler t-shirts.
“My great-grandfather worked in a tannery in England, so it’s kind of a full circle for me,” she said. “I think it’s a coincidence to live in Haverhill and to know that I’m creating something that’s an exciting first for mums, having a child’s first shoes, which many parents cling to. I hope my shoes will last for many years, because a baby’s first shoes are very important, especially for moms.
As she says on her website, she was born in a quaint village in England between Manchester and Liverpool in a place called Cheshire.
“At a young age, my parents had the opportunity to experience the American dream firsthand,” she said, noting that they brought her and her two brothers to the United States then. that she was only 3 years old and moved to Merrimac.
Arivella graduated from Pentucket Regional High School in 2005 and began working in high-end luxury stores and boutiques at North Shore Mall and Newburyport.
“By doing this for over five years, I found a passion for customer service, marketing and sales,” she said. “I then had the opportunity to join a growing bank, Align Credit Union, which gave me more of a career path than I was looking for. I quickly rose through the corporate ranks, I was given my dream job title of Vice President of Retail and thought it couldn’t get any better.
Eight years after purposeful career growth, she became a mum in 2018. Her daughter Kensington is now 3 years old. Her husband, Kevin Arivella, works in the insurance industry.
She left banking in 2020 to spend more time with her family when she found herself in a new job and career working from home.
She started by decorating onesies with iron-on designs for babies up to 24 months and sold them online alongside toddler t-shirts with sayings like “Chatterbox” and “Ice Cream Appreciation Society” as well as whimsical images. A model of t-shirt created by Arivella last August paid tribute to the 13 soldiers, men and women, killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan. The “Heroes” shirts raised over $1,000, which Arivella donated to the Massachusetts Military Support Foundation.
“The onesies and t-shirts are selling well and a lot of my customers are asking for custom designs,” she said. “The big deal now is gender or name reveals. It’s all about pomp and circumstance and these products continue to be popular.
Her home’s backroom became her manufacturing hub and she quickly expanded her product line to include personalized leather or fabric bows to use as hair decorations for girls as well as personalized bow ties for girls. boys.
“All are hand-designed and made by me,” she said.
It expanded again, this time into soft all-leather shoes for infants up to 3 years old, sourcing the leather from a midwestern tanner.
She said pediatricians recommend that children who are just starting to walk either skip shoes or wear soft, non-slip shoes, just like her shoes.
“When children learn to walk, they need to be able to grip their toes on the ground, which you can’t do with a hard-soled shoe,” she said.
Arivella is usually busy in her workshop at night and on weekends cutting and sewing leather and tying eyelets for laces.
“I spent many late nights finishing work or updating my website,” she said.
“For now, I’m enjoying the exploration of being practical and as creative as I want and I also love that my products are handmade and I don’t have to cut corners. .”
To learn more, visit https://thistlensage.com.