Gabereau indulges obsession

Retired talk-show host opens shop-in-shop at Marilyn's

Vicki Gabereau, best known for her work as a journalist and television personality, is now putting her hard work and determination into another passion: shoes.

Gabereau has partnered with childhood friend Marilyn Diligenti, owner of Marilyn's of West Vancouver, to launch VG Shoes.

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"She's been bugging me to come and work with her in some capacity and we've been trying to think of ways to do it, and then this one just sort of gelled," says Gabereau. "I like shoes and I understand shoes and I understand women's feet for some inexplicable reason. At a certain stage you do not want shoes that hurt - the end."

Gabereau, a three-time ACTRA Award winner for best radio host-interviewer, retired from her self-titled daytime talk show on CTV in 2005. She says she still does some work for the Knowledge Network but she wanted to do more.

"I've been sitting around watching black and white movies on TV since I retired and it's time really for me to do something," says Gabereau of her move into fashion. "Nobody at age 67 goes into retail if they're not half mad, which is me but anyway we're having a million laughs, it's so funny."

Diligenti has been in the business of women's fashion for 31 years and at her current location in Caulfeild for 25 years.

"She's had a very successful business and she wanted to expand shoes and I'm slightly obsessed with shoes and so is she," says Gabereau. "I took over two-thirds of one of her stores because her stores are in three different rooms, so I took over part of one of those rooms and made it into a shoe department."

The shoes come in a variety of styles and colours, and prices range from $60 to $375.

"I like coloured shoes and apparently they are not the most popular thing, but they are getting more popular," says Gabereau. "We bought some red boots, like winecoloured boots, bright blue suede boots and some bright blue low boots. And we've got smoking shoes."

The shoes are also from a range of designers, including Michael Kors, Steve Madden, Harlow, and Stuart Weitzman. Gabereau says they try on all the shoes when they go to the manufacturer.

"You want an eclectic mix," says Gabereau. ""The main thing is, it's not that these shoes aren't really available elsewhere, it's that when you come in to buy something at Marilyn's, let's say mother of the bride or a prom dress or a suit or whatever, because she's got everything, that you don't have to go downtown to buy the shoes."

Gabereau says they want customers to experience one stop shopping and to walk out of the store completely outfitted. Part of the experience is also the close relationship between the staff and the clientele.

"I was in the business of 'so you wrote a book, gee thanks, bye,' you do an interview and then everybody goes away and that's the end of it," says Gabereau. "But this builds continuing relationships. Everybody knows everybody's life, a great number of these people (have) known each other for years and years, so it's really very amusing."

Gabereau is also looking to eventually start her own line of shoes.

"I am going in November to meet a shoe designer to see what we can do about our own line," she says. "You require a great deal of money to start a shoe line and you need a great deal of consistency so you have to know what you're talking about."

Gabereau says she has learned a lot from working with the staff at Marilyn's

and says the earliest they might have a product is next fall. "I want good looking shoes that are comfortable, that are cute, that are colours and not just all black," she says.

Gabereau's love of shoes started when she was young. "My mother wore beautiful shoes and when she died I kept one pair of her fantastic Bruno Magli gold high heels - evening slippers, fantastic sandal-ly shoes and the most beautiful heel and the most beautifully made," says

Gabereau. "She had a lot of shoes, my mother."

Gabereau's own personal shoe collection runs anywhere from 50 to 60 pairs, including running shoes and "boots for slogging around in the mud."

"I've just vetted some of them and I've just bought three or four in the last couple of weeks, obviously," she says. "I have about 10 pairs of outside mucky shoes because I muck around quite a bit in the dirt gardening."

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