For many years Terras’s Shoe Shop in Elie was well-known for being able to produce the right shoes to fit almost any foot (and usually also the left foot!). Many Elie visitors during the summer patronised Terras’s shop but what was the origin and history of this business?
Lindsay Terras, the son of the founder of the business, says that his father was born and brought up in Arncroach. His family used to have the grocery business in Arncroach and even to this day there is a faded sign above the premises advertising the shop. The shop looks slightly derelict now and seems to be some sort of workshop.
The family used to go around farms with a grocery horse and cart and then a van of sorts selling groceries to the farmers. Terras Snr was a sort of partner in the business. When he was about 18 he went to train as a shoe maker with Blacks of Colinsburgh, which just past the church entrance at the old Royal Bank. Of course, at that time there were a few shoe shops in Elie. Nan Graham had one in the High Street. The Terras family also had the post office in Arncroach and the family house is still there. My father, after he had finished his training, firstly set up shop in Elie having married my mother who also came from Arncroach. She was a telephonist in the post office and used to deliver telegrams to the big houses.
My father opened the first shop in Elie at the corner of Park Place and High Street (which is the bakers now) but this was burnt down in a fire and for a short time he sold his shoes from Garland’s yard just up the road and then a lock up.
He then got the chance of the property in Stenton Row. Most of that row was owned by Robert Cumming who had the grocers shop in Earlsferry (q.v.). That was where the business thrived for a number of years. When my father died I took over the ship, although I had started an apprenticeship with George Nicoll the golf club makers in Leven and then worked in the shop. The shop just consisted of the front part and a back store room and a couple of storerooms upstairs. That would explain why when you asked for a shoe or size there was some delay while me or my father located the stock.
My father retired and I took over the whole business, but of course we did not live in the shop premises but in Woodside. Eventually, in 1997, we closed the shop and then we had a problem; there were 7,000 pairs of shoes still in store in the shop. For about a year at least we used to go Anstruther every Sunday and sell the shoes for cash, usually in one of the old fish sheds. We had to buy an old post office van to store them and transport them. The funny side of all this was that each week end we used to generate quite a lot of cash and we tried to put it in banks but they were very suspicious and it was difficult to convince them that it was honestly obtained. Eventually, however, we managed to shift most of the old stock and the business then finished. We also got rid of the van it was past its sell-by date and the door kept falling open.