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A Luxury Shoemaker's Surprise Family Business Philip Nappi discovers that his passion of footwear runs in the family.

By Margaret Littman

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Photography by Josh Anderson
Sole man: Phillip Nappi of Peter Nappi.
Photography by Josh Anderson

Phillip Nappi was orphaned at age 11. After moving in with his mother's relatives, he lost touch with his father's, knowing only that they were Italian immigrants. While growing up in rural Mississippi, Nappi worked in shoe stores and imagined that one day he would open his own. But even the wildest of childhood dreams couldn't predict how the pieces of his life would come together.

Fast-forward to adulthood. In 1999, Nashville, Tenn.-based Nappi, a salesman by trade, bought a recycling business through a newspaper ad. He learned the industry as he went along, and in 2008 sold the company. He used some of the profits to move temporarily to Florence, Italy, with his wife, Dana, and infant daughter. Naturally curious about his father's family, he wanted to research his Italian roots while looking into the possibility of starting a handcrafted boot and shoe business. His investigation turned up a serendipitous link: While going through old papers documenting his ancestors' passage to the U.S., Nappi was shocked to see that his grandfather, Peter, listed his occupation as shoemaker.

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