Paul’s Boutique Berlin
Berlin is home to many small boutiques and specialty shops hidden throughout its various popular districts. One of Prenzlauer Berg’s most well-kept treasures is a colorful and lively little place known as Paul’s Boutique, tucked back on Oderbergerstrasse off of the famous Kastanienallee.
The shop’s main feature is a room packed full of new and used shoes, decorated with vintage toys, and completed with a giant window so that passer’s by can see into the growing collection. When the weather is good shoes and jackets will be displayed outside as well, tempting collectors to come in and browse for buried gems.
The Prenzlauer Berg location isn’t the only one in Berlin, but it is affectionately nickednamed ‘The Mothership’ because it’s where it all started. This weekend eatmoreshoes rolled over to catch up with Paul Frank Radermacher, the East Berlin born owner of Paul’s Boutique, and got to know him and his shop a bit better.
When did you decide to start working in sneakers?
I started the shop in 2000, simply because I didn’t have a clue on how to make a decent living. So it was really as simple as that: What do I like? Shoes and clothing. Ok, I’m gonna open a store. Sometimes I still can’t believe that it really worked. And without the help of my friends it wouldn’t have.
How would you describe the variety of shoes you sell?
That is constantly changing. We sell whatever we consider ‘wearable sneakers’ we can get our hands on. Most of the stuff is just basic classics, but there is always a good chance to find a rare pair. We’re buying from many suppliers, some is vintage, some leftover stock, samples, pretty much everything. So if you’re lucky, you can find some pretty amazing stuff, other times sneakerheads might be disappointed. We are just making sure that we always have at least a thousand pairs in stock and since we’re constantly selling quite a lot of pairs it keeps us really busy to restock. We also sell lots of track suit tops and windbreakers.
What sort of clientele do you get in your store?
The clientele is as diverse as the stock. Yesterday we had an eleven year old skate kid buying his first pair of vans with his own money. I like that even these kids feel comfortable to come into the store by themselves and buy something. We also have regular customers that I would call collectors, even though I’m not sure if they see themselves as that. Some people buy to resell, but most of the crowd is just looking for an affordable fresh pair of sneakers.
Where did you learn about adidas, and shoes in general?
That’s a good question, because I started to be interested in sneakers long before internet. That’s how old I am. For an East German kid it was very very hard to get a pair of adidas, but you were king of the schoolyard if you were sporting a pair, so maybe that’s how it all started. In my childhood sneakers were just incredibly desirable objects, which were almost impossible to get.
In the nineties, I had a lot of friends who were into vintage sneakers, mainly adidas running kicks, and we were just always trying to have the coolest pair, and so we found out about the name of the sneakers and which era they were made in. We were always wearing them, the thought of keeping them in boxes at your house seemed pretty stupid at that time. A lot of times you just saw a friend with a beautiful pair you’ve never seen before and then it it was all about “what model is that?” and “Where did you get those?”.
What does ‘sneaker culture’ mean to you?
To me it’s probably about that time I remember when it was about surprise and style and not about standing in line one day to get a pair to put on eBay the next day.
How do you see yourself fitting into the sneaker scene?
I’m selling drugs to addicts.
You definitely are! How do you think adidas has influenced (or been influenced by) the trainer scene?
I think adidas had the biggest impact on sneaker culture ever. The history of the brand is so rich, I mean can you imagine 80′s Brit Hooligans without adidas? RUN DMC in Onitsuka Tiger? Iron Maiden in Campers?
What’s your favorite pair of adidas shoes?
I love the plain basic silhouettes of 80′s suede and canvas sneakers like adidas Gazelle, adidas Nizza, and all the 80′s ‘made in France’ sneakers.
While were speaking of adidas, can you tell us a bit about the work you did at the No74 boutique on Torstrasse?
They came up to me and asked me if I would be interested in managing a temporary adidas store on Torstrasse. It was supposed to last for a year and after such a long time of working at my own store I thought it could be a nice break and an interesting experience. And it really was. I learned a lot about the business and big companies and I met some nice people.
I really like the street and some friends of mine were opening stores in the same neighborhood plus I found a little space for myself as well. In the beginning we had a lot of freedom and we organized movie screenings, parties, concerts etc. and it was a lot of fun. Later on it became more or less a regular store and very time consuming and it wasn’t possible anymore to take proper care of my own business and work as a store manager for adidas. It also made me value my shop much more, because it’s also really nice to do things exactly as you want them. No meetings and all that. But no regrets whatsoever. I’d do it again for temporary projects.
What’s next for you? Any plans on the horizon?
I just finished the work on our archive, a space where we just rent out clothing to stylists and I’m just happy not to think for a minute. I might open another store or maybe do something completely different. There is only so much time in one day for all the things you’d love to do and normally every new project is a commitment that’s needs a lot of love and care. But I would really like to keep the freedom to travel a lot and do other fun things and sometimes it’s hard to combine all that. But I’m happy with how things are going at the moment and I’m almost certain that the future won’t be boring. But I’ll let you know as soon as I know.
Lastly, what would you do if shoes didn’t exist?
Move to a warmer country.
Big thanks Frank, we’ll see you at ‘The Mothership’ sometime soon!
written by Dylan Cromwell
photography by Harold Kohn