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Mountainside Resident Is Making Strides In High-Heeled Shoe Industry

Sean Flannery, the former Fanwood Pub owner, has launched a line of shoes with retractable heels.

The former co-owner of a popular local pub has gone from serving drinks, to launching a new business that will come as a relief to women who routinely wear high heels.

Mountainside resident Sean Flannery, former co-owner of Flannery's pub in Fanwood, recently sold his share of the popular local tavern in order to continue with his latest venture — a convertible high-heeled shoe company known as Camileon Heels. The shoes — which have been featured in magazines and touted by celebrities such as Rachael Ray — feature a heel that retracts to take the footwear from high heel to low heel with one click.

A former model and avid businessman who has been involved in numerous pursuits in the fashion industry, the resident opened Flannery's more than two years ago. But once Camileon Heels began to make strides, it became evident that the local resident would have to make some changes to accommodate his booming business. It was around that time that Brian Costello of Scotch Plains — a regular at Flannery's Pub — noticed how busy the bar owner had become. He approached Flannery and offered to buyout his portion of the tavern.

The two men struck a deal, which Flannery — who can trace his Irish heritage back centuries — noted made them both very happy. The agreement will allow Costello to continue using the name "Flannery's" in the Fanwood location only.

It's no surprise that Costello noticed Flannery getting busier. The Camileon owner has had his hand in a number of business ventures over the years from fashion to real estate. What Flannery does is find businesses that he can build, as well as finding patents he can invest in.

Flannery said he originally bought the liquor license for the pub nine years ago in order to package it with a property and sell it as a lease. When finding a location to do that became increasingly difficult, he ended up partnering with Brian Walter on Flannery's. The partnership lasted for two years and three months. When approached to sell his share, Flannery was very open to it because he usually likes an exit strategy.

Also, he noted how difficult it had become to wake up at 6 a.m. for his other projects and then to stay at the bar until 3 a.m.

The idea for the Camileon heel, Flannery explained, came from a radiologist, Dr. Handel, who approached him to convert his idea into a business.

Dr. Handel thought of the idea while his son was playing with a Transformer action figure in the back of New York taxi. Handel looked to the sidewalk to see women walking to work in their sneakers — not wanting the discomfort of walking around the city in high heels. Once Flannery heard the idea he was immediately intrigued.

After not seeing eye-to-eye on some aspects of the company, Flannery and Handel parted ways and Flannery eventually ended up with 100 percent of the company.

It took five years for him to get the American patent on the shoes. He said his ultimate goal is that it will become a technological breakthrough.

"I don't care if you're Stuart Weitzman or Prada, I want you to have the Camileon Heel technology in your line," he quipped.

The current Camileon shoe is made of fine Italian leather in Florence, Italy, in the same factories as Chanel and Gucci. It retails for about $400 to $500 per pair.

Where the doctor and Flannery differed was retailing the shoe at this price, Flannery believed the shoe would be market better at $100 to $150.

Recently, Flannery moved the operations to Asia, so that by 2013, he can ultimately sell the designer shoes for $100 to $150.

The next step for Camileon heels is "phase two" of the venture, which will include different heel heights. Every 18 to 24 months, Flannery hopes to launch a new heel in different size, color or height. In 2014, he hopes to launch a line of Chamileon boots.

The shoes has become popular with women ranging from commuters, to those who wear the designs to weddings. Commuters especially find the retractible heels appealing, Flannery said, but they also come in handy when driving or at venues such as casinos, clubs and weddings.

"It's a great technology," Flannery said. "We've sold over 6,000 pairs to date."

Right now, Flannery only sells the Camileon Heel on his website, camileonheels.com. But starting next week the shoes will be available at Soleil — a shoe store in Westfield. They will be carrying three different styles, in all colors and size range for each style. Every three months, Soleil will add more styles to the lineup.

The heels come in all sizes in both regular and wide widths. There are more than 20 styles, in various colors.

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