Kemp’s Shoe Salon and Boutique has been a fashion staple on Vero Beach’s Ocean Drive for over 45 years. The all-women-owned and operated family business — now three generations deep — thrives today while so many neighboring retail establishments have come and gone in that same period. Why? Sisters Meg Offutt, Diane Jarrell and Denise Metz credit it to the dreams, inspiration and foresight of their grandmother and mother, who set the stage for today’s continued success.
Dotti Kemp opened the original Kemp’s Shoe Salon in Boca Raton in 1959. She started with a small store and little inventory, but she had big ideas. With a limited budget, but unlimited creativity, she hand-painted, dyed and bejeweled the shoes and handbags and designed unusual shoe ornaments to expand her inventory and cater to the special needs of her clientele. As her customer base in Boca Raton grew, she opened a larger store in the Royal Palm Plaza, and then another store in Delray Beach.
She added designer shoe lines and designer clothing, jewelry and other accessories and changed the name to Kemp’s Shoe Salon and Boutique. In the late 1960s, Dotti acquired a business partner and added three more stores: one in Naples and two in Massachusetts, in Chatham and Osterville. The partnership was dissolved in the early 1970s, and they are under different ownership today, but Dotti’s influence remains.
In the early 1970s, Vero Beach was still a small coastal community in the shadows of its southern neighbors in Dade and Palm Beach counties. Dotti had an opportunity to open a location in Vero Beach, and she took it. Meg explains, “She was approached by a builder who wanted to construct a two-story structure on Ocean Drive, next to the Holiday Inn, to house an elegant spa that his wife would be opening on the second floor, and thought Kemp’s would be a perfect match for the clientele she wanted to attract.”