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Not every woman wears Cinderella's size

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Posted:     Post subject: Not every woman wears Cinderella's size

St. Petersburg Times, FL, USA
By Richard Danielson, Times Staff Writer
Published Monday, September 1, 2008 8:57 PM

TAMPA  Opening a specialty boutique in a strip shopping center behind
another strip center, and in the depths of a recession, no less  now
that's hard.

But Amy Tricoche's place has women talking.

They work at different jobs and come from different places  Tampa,
St. Petersburg, Brandon and Holiday  but they need a big shoe, and
they've discovered Tricoche's shop, Big and Elegant.

"I've recommended her to my daughter and to several people at work,"
said Wanda Rodriguez, a hotel front-office manager who wears a size
11. "It's a great experience to pick a shoe from the display and try
it on there."

Tricoche, 42, opened the shop at Memorial Highway and Hillsborough
Avenue in January. Her business is not yet where she wants or needs it
to be, but she's upbeat.

After all, she's been through worse.
¢ ¢ ¢
Tricoche moved to Tampa seven years ago as a single mom raising a
young son. She thought of opening a shoe store similar to one she knew
in Puerto Rico, where she grew up. But soon after arriving, she was
profoundly sick.

Tricoche had been heavy all of her life. By the time she moved here,
she weighed about 270 pounds. She had swollen ankles and joints,
cramps and diarrhea. She drank liquid Tylenol for the pain. One eye
drooped, and her vision was blurry.

By 2002, Tricoche had to quit a job at Without Walls International
Church because she couldn't walk. Her younger sister moved into her
two-bedroom apartment to help. She didn't know if she could keep
custody of her 6-year-old son.

"Not being able to see my son's face, that was hard," she said.

It was an eye doctor who first suggested she might have Crohn's
disease, a chronic inflammation of the intestine.

Tricoche began treatment for both Crohn's disease and her eye
problems. Her eyes dilated, she stayed in a darkened bedroom for
months. She grew sick and tired, she said, of feeling sick and tired.

"One day it just dawned on me, 'Okay, I've got to shake this off,' "
she said. "I cannot live in this room. I cannot depend on my sister."

Get out, she told her sister.

Her first day alone, Tricoche spilled coffee and didn't realize that
she hadn't cleaned it up until her son told her.

But with further medical care, plus cataract surgery, she began to
feel better. She started following nutrition tips she picked up from
Oprah: Don't eat after 7 p.m. User a smaller plate. Drink lots of
water. And she exercised. It was just 10 minutes a day at first, but
it led to step aerobics and weight training.

In four years, she lost nearly 90 pounds, going to 184 pounds and
dropping 10 dress sizes to a 12.

Her shoe size, however, remained the same  10 wide.
¢ ¢ ¢
Her health improved, Tricoche met Wayne McFarlane at a church New
Year's Eve party. They married three years ago. And she returned to
her dream of opening a shoe store.

Big and Elegant carries about 100 styles  from sandals to boots to
pumps  and caters mostly to career women 35 to 60. Prices range from
$20.95 to $96.99.

In Puerto Rico, Tricoche had worked 12 years for pharmaceutical giant
Warner-Lambert until Pfizer bought it and eliminated her job.

The joy in this business, she says, is in sharing her story.

"This was birthed out of the heart of a plus-size person," she said.

"It just opens a door when you can say, 'Been there, done that, bought
the T-shirt and now I'm wearing it,' " Tricoche said. "They can relate
and say, 'Okay, she's one of us.' "
¢ ¢ ¢
Soon after opening, Tricoche began to rethink her assumptions about
her customers.

"I thought I was catering to plus-size women," she said. Then she
began seeing thin women come in because they wear a normal length but
have wide feet.

And that's not the only niche market to find its way to her door.

Early on, she got a call from a transgender man who called himself
Stephanie and asked to come in.

The thought gave Tricoche, who describes herself as a "faith person,"
some pause.

Then she decided this: "I'm not on earth to judge. I'm on earth treat
everyone with love, kindness and respect."

And this: "You like women's shoes. I sell women's shoes."

Still, transgender customers remain a small fraction of her clientele.
The reason: Men prefer stilettoes.

In contrast, relatively few taller or heavier women want to strap on a
pair of spiky heels. And it's rare to find a vendor with stilettoes in

Still, a customer is a customer, and Tricoche has a story for everyone: hers.

"If you don't remember me for one thing, you're going to remember me
for another," she says. "If you didn't get your pair of shoes, you got
witnessed to, cared for or loved on in some way shape or form."

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Richard
Danielson can be reached at (removed) or (813) 269-5311.
6752 Memorial Highway, at the southwest corner of Memorial and
Hillsborough Avenue, Tampa, (813) 884-1900.
(c) 2008 ¢ All Rights Reserved ¢ St. Petersburg Times

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