A Fashionable Bit Of Italy In Vero Beach
Maledetti Toscani brings its fine leather goods to a new home.
Nearly all of the store’s décor, including the sign and the clever shoe storage unit, were imported from Italy.
They say that home is where the heart is. But what if your heart is torn between two equally captivating places that lie more than 8,000 miles apart? With the help of a wonderful business partner named Ann Marie Lloyd Shiff, a few good friends and some serendipitous circumstances, Stephanie Gore has brought a little bit of the Italy that she cherishes right here to her equally beloved city of Vero Beach.
Last August, Stephanie and Ann Marie, her long-time colleague in the event-planning business, opened the first, United States-based Maledetti Toscani. Located on Beachland Boulevard, the flagship store – like the company’s many other locations throughout Italy, the Netherlands and Canada – offers jackets, shoes, bags and accessories that are handmade in Italy, using only the finest-quality Italian leathers and materials.
The first chapter of the story takes place in Italy beginning in 1848 with the great-great-grandfather of brothers and current owners Nicola “Nikke” and Alesandro “Belli” Quadri. A bookbinder-turned-cobbler, he began making fine quality shoes in the town of Montepulciano, Italy. He passed on the craft to his son Zaccaria, who managed Maledetti Toscani for nearly 40 years.
After Zaccaria returned from World War I, his son Livio joined the company. The 18-year-old quickly proved himself a gifted cobbler; and longing to see “the land of opportunity,” he set off for New York where he repaired shoes for affluent clients in a Manhattan basement before eventually opening a small shoe-making shop in the city. People appreciated his use of quality materials and his meticulous craftsmanship, and the business began to flourish. However, the stock market crash and the Great Depression, combined with Zaccaria’s waning health and desire to step down from the business in Montepulciano, landed Livio back in Italy.
With Livio at the helm, the Italian company entered a strong period of growth and prosperity, during which it expanded its workforce and built factories. However, during World War II, Livio, serving in the Italian army, was captured and held as a prisoner of war. With her husband imprisoned, much of Italy devastated and commerce at a standstill, Livio’s wife, Bruna, was left to manage the business and support her three children. Desperate, she wrote to the Queen of Italy asking for help. In 1944 Queen Elena pardoned Livio.
Grateful to be home, but too exhausted and overwhelmed to rebuild the company, Livio brought in his young son Paolo, who successfully managed Maledetti Toscani until 1998. Aided by the resurgence of the Italian economy, he not only expanded the company but also redoubled its focus on excellence. His two sons, Nikke and Belli, began working alongside him. Nikke, who possesses his father’s creativity, and Belli, who has a talent for business and management, matured and developed into the complementary team that carries on the tradition of excellence and quality that have become synonymous with the name “Maledetti Toscani.”
Chapter two – the Vero Beach “chapter” of the Maledetti Toscani story – begins quite a few years later, but it is no less compelling. In the 1980s, Stephanie, a Florida native, married an Italian. When she began accompanying him on his trips to Italy, she fell head over heels in love with the country. Even after her marriage ended, Stephanie’s passion for Italy remained.
Then came the 2003 film “Under the Tuscan Sun” based on the memoir by Frances Mayes. Stephanie watched it and bought a copy and watched it some more. She continued traveling to Italy whenever she could, falling more deeply in love each time she visited. By 2009, she had also become enamored with Vero Beach. She had many friends here and thought it was the perfect place to settle to be closer to the water, so she packed up and relocated from Orlando.
But that didn’t mean that she put Italy on the back burner. She and her friend Jodi Torres bought three rustic, abandoned, nothing-left-but-walls villas in Cirò in the Calabria region. The “house partners” are working on restoring the villas and combining the three into one renovated space. Meanwhile, Stephanie became “Twitter friends” with Frances Mayes and promised herself that one day, she’d actually travel to see the villa in Cortona that Mayes bought, renovated and wrote about in her best-selling book “Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy.”
That day finally came during a trip to Italy in 2014. Stephanie decided to stop over in Cortona to see the famous Mayes house. While she was enjoying a glass of wine in a local plaza, her friend and traveling companion Jean “Jeanie” Geidner spotted the Maledetti Toscani store. She convinced Stephanie that they just had to do some shopping. “So this whole thing is all her fault,” Stephanie jokes today.
Read the entire article in the March 2016 issue