Our Story

Since the early days, Sockshop has been a family affair. Owners Eric and Ellen Gil began the venture as a small family unit, and over the years that community has continued to steadily grow. Since our opening days in 1988, Sockshop and Shoe Company has occupied many storefronts, served many customers, and welcomed many employees into the family. But one thing that has never changed is our unwavering dedication to our wonderful community. Read on to hear from our owners, Eric and Ellen, and our downtown manager, Jenoah, about the Sockshop story. 

March 1988: The original Sockshop sign on our very first storefront, located in the St. George building

How Ellen tells the story:

Eric woke up very excited one morning in 1985 declaring that he had a great business idea for us. He said that we should open a sock store! I said, huh? He elaborated that it would be really fun with socks in every color and pattern imaginable. Just socks. I said, ‘huh’. By late 1987 I got it! And on April First (intentionally), 1988 we opened a small store on Pacific Ave. in Santa Cruz, California. We called it Sockshop Santa Cruz.

The register counter was just inside the door of our tiny 400 square foot store and I could hear customers walking by. They would say, ‘no one has ever made a business work in this space before’ and ‘how long do you think these guys will be in business?’ and ‘a sock store??’. I would tell Eric about these comments at night when he returned from his full time job and he would always tell me, ‘that’s great!’ Too which I would say, ‘huh?’. Eric was so positive that he had a great idea, that he was really happy that not everyone would get it and this sock store concept would remain a unique idea.

We paid off our business loan the day after Christmas.

After a massive earthquake rocked us out of our store in October 1989, we sold socks out of a large pavilion with other displaced Santa Cruz businesses. We opened another store in Capitola while we awaited the rebuilding of our town. We needed to make our Sockshop into a destination store now. I had heard customers talking about how their socks would look great with their Birkenstocks as they shopped in our store. The idea was thus born for Ellen’s Birkenstock and Socks! From there, we added other ‘European Comfort Shoes’ and the rest is history.

When Santa Cruz was re-built we reopened with a store now called Sockshop & Shoe Company. We grew out of our next two spaces downtown over the next few years and were extremely fortunate to bring our business to one of the most beautiful buildings in downtown Santa Cruz in 2005. We are happily welcoming customers from near and far to our flagship store located in a 1910, 7000 square foot bank building at 1515 Pacific Ave. Santa Cruz.

We now have a Sockshop on the Santa Cruz Wharf called Sockshop Santa Cruz along with a Sockshop & Shoe Company in the brand-new Village in Aptos.

And we have our very own line of socks now! Born out of the creativity inspired by our beloved Santa Cruz, and Eric’s entrepreneurial and out of the box thinking; Socksmith Design ships to 3,000 customers worldwide today.

So yes, Eric was right. A sock store…huh!

March 1988: Eric and Ellen in front of our very first storefront after painting in preparation for opening day

How Eric tells the story:

Sockshop Santa Cruz was born in 1988. Ellen and Eric Gil opened a 450 square foot store in the heart of downtown Santa Cruz. We had a dream of creating an inspiring environment with nothing but colorful patterned socks, tights and footwear that was as creative as Santa Cruz was inspiring to us as individuals. Creative and comfortable were the motivations for the stores we added over the course of time.

Over 35 years of business we’ve added shoes, hats and many more accessories to our flagship store Sockshop & Shoe Company (renamed in 1992, after earthquake moved 3 times in 3 years). We’re known for the best in comfort and variety of footwear that is in a league all its own. Now in a 110-year-old bank building with 7000 square feet, our store is on the corner of Locust
and Pacific Avenue just across the street from our original Sockshop. We have endured many challenges, and with the help of great people along the way, we grew year after year and are very proud to be part of a community that’s very special to us.

With much love for what we do and all the beautiful people we get to work with, we bring you a new online experience.

1990: Sockshop Santa Cruz's new location in one of the pavilion shops that were constructed following the October 17, 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake

How Jenoah tells the story:

Sockshop & Shoe Co. is founded and run by inspiring people. Owners Ellen and Eric Gil created their business in Santa Cruz, California over 30 years ago with the vision of bringing brands that they stand behind to the community who has stood behind them since the beginning. An earthquake destroyed the foundations of their first shop early on, but the love shared between the Gils and their community was too strong to stay buried in the rubble. Decades later, we are a thriving local business in the heart of downtown Santa Cruz, with several other stores in the family. Our loving employees share the Gils’ philosophy of respect and appreciation for people and product. We are proud to share our commitment to comfort and care with you!