Tampa entrepreneur takes a bold step in unusual shoes
By JANE BOKUN
© St. Petersburg Times,
If Penny Galluppo always seems to have a spring in her step, it may have something to do with the large coil attached to her shoe.
The 40-year-old Tampa single mom has been wearing the Z-Coil ever since she first saw a neighbor's mother sporting them on a walk in her Wesley Chapel neighborhood last year.
Galluppo, who has sports injuries to her knees and back, liked the shoes with the 4-inch, cone-shaped spring so much that she became Florida's first franchiser for the product. She sells the shoes from her home in the Williamsburg Estates subdivision. She also has a Web site at www.zcoilofflorida.com.
"They look great with jeans, dresses or shorts," Galluppo said.
The style is decidedly different -- ugly, some would say. The shoe, which resembles a large boot with an even larger spring was developed in 1990 by Alvaro Gallegos, a shoe salesman from Albuquerque, N.M.
In her sales pitch, Gallegos says the shoe offers four times more cushioning, equalizes foot and back pressure and can even eliminate foot ailments such as heel spurs and arthritis. The shoemaker attributes these benefits to the patented Z-Coil, which absorbs skeletal shock.
"Seniors seem to be our market because of pain relief," said Del Turner, who started selling the shoes three years ago in Meeker, Colo., and is now a vice president of the company.
"I was in a wheelchair when I got a hold of this project," Turner said. "I found the shoes through a friend in New York. I tried them on and the pain went away within four days."
Could the Z-Coil's corporate claims be snake oil? Galluppo says no. She firmly believes that the shoes have helped her joint ailments. And she's not alone. Since she started selling the shoes last year, she has about 150 Tampa customers through word of mouth and outlets such as the Hitting Zone on Florida Avenue and A Express Shoe Repair on North Hines Avenue.
"I've got one Tampa customer who is training for the Boston Marathon, one who works for UPS, and another who's a doctor," Galluppo said.
The Z-Coil shoes are sold primarily in New Mexico, Georgia, Texas and now Florida. They range from $129 to $159, with multiple styles -- tennis shoes, loafers, mules and pumps. She buys the shoes from the manufacturer and resells them.
"I've got about $150,000 invested in the shoes so far," Galluppo said. The former insurance agent used her savings to start her Z-Coil franchise. So far, she said, the business has been profitable.
"Once I wear the shoes, people stop me to look at them and they sell themselves," Galluppo said.
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