A dozen years ago, Brooke English opened a quirky little shop in downtown San Luis Obispo selling nothing but colorful, offbeat socks. When she took her wares online a few years later, she also took her place as Queen Sock Fairy, outfitting tens of thousands of feet worldwide in fun footwear.

The Sock Drawer is now one of the largest online sock companies in the world and was recently awarded certification as a Great Place to Work.

We caught up with English to talk warehouse rock, girlpower and balancing brick and mortar with online operations.

So, why socks?
Socks are such an easy and affordable way to add an extra dash of personality and fun into your outfit. And it’s up to you how much you want to show them off! Socks also make really great gifts. Anyone can come into our shop or website and easily find a sock that matches their personality or that of someone they know.

brooke englishFavorite pair of socks:
It’s so difficult to choose just one, because I’ve had so many favorites over the years! But if I had to pick one today: I’m a Girl, What’s Your Superpower?

What’s on your inventory-time playlist?
We try to mix it up and keep everyone’s musical tastes in mind. You might hear bluegrass, ’80s pop, classic rock or ’90s hip-hop on any given day. Pearl Jam will always top my list!

What does a perfect Sunday look like these days?
Spending time with my husband and two boys in the sunshine and heading over to my parents’ house for a visit.

Anything at the top of your bucket list?
I would love to one day play the piano in an orchestra! I took lessons for nearly 15 years, and it’s a dream of mine to play with a group.

Favorite thing about your job:
Leading a team with compassion and creating an environment where people feel truly seen and heard.

Biggest challenge of your job:
The ever-changing landscape of the internet. And for that, I am actually grateful, because it continually brings new challenges to overcome and forces us to stay nimble.

If you had a magic wand, what’s one thing you’d change about downtown SLO?
I would take out a lane of traffic and widen the sidewalks. Three lanes of traffic makes Higuera Street feel like a thoroughfare. I would love it to feel more pedestrian-centric. I love the recent updates to Garden Street, for instance. More creative solutions that encourage walking would be wonderful.

Share your top thoughts on balancing brick-and-mortar and online operations.  
They are incredibly different from each other, despite the fact that we are selling the same product. Each has its own team made up of very different roles. Yet both in our retail store and online, connecting with our customers and making them feel cared for is at the heart of what we do. It’s easy to connect with someone face to face in our store. It’s far more challenging to achieve that same essence of connection online, but we always strive for it with our customer service and fun touches like yarn bows and handwritten notes. Our continued connection to our customers (and each other!) has helped us grow into one of the largest online sock retailers in the world and employ upwards of 50 local employees during our busiest season.