My Dad started this business back in Chicago’s Roseland area on Michigan Ave. in 1970. When most kids were watching cartoons, he told me to get out of bed and come down and move those shoe boxes. I was only 10 years old, but boy did I enjoy all those colorful boxes from the 70’s was like opening up and album cover during that time. It was the 70’s, men were wearing platform shoes.
Twelve years later, its 1980 and I’m in college. We were blessed with the opportunity to take over the The Shoe Corral in Hyde Park. The Devine Brothers insisted that we be the ones to take over their legacy started back in 1964. The Devine family had stores all over the city at that time... but Hyde Parkwas their baby.
The plan was for me to learn the business while working there through and commuting to Univ. of Illinois Chicago campus. So the Devines took me under their umbrella and showed me the business like I was there son.
1982 comes along and we are about to purchase the store from the Devines. Word of the pending change of ownership gets around to the other merchants there at the time: Coop, Cohn & Stern, Fannie Mae, Walgreens, Woolworth, Parklane Hoisery, Arthur Rubloff (owners of the center at the time), City Girl, Susan Gayle, Flair Cleaners and a fast food restaurant.
A special EMERGENCY MEETING was called for with the sole intention of keeping us from taking over the lease. You see we were the very 1st Black tenant and even though we were 12-15 years seasoned at the time we met resistance.
The Group of merchants from the meeting came up with some type of bylaw that required us to have a personal guarantee… totally unheard of in a commercial lease for an established business.
Ironically, all those stores are buried somewhere in the Retail cemetery and our store still thrives 50+ years later. This was all behind the scenes. My Dad was so stuck on not making ANY changes. We kept many of the same employees, the same suppliers, we even hired the Devine brothers to front for us for years working part-time. We paid them off in record time 18 months instead of 60 months.
The rest is history.