My Kind of Sole
It's years since I lived in Chicago, but in all the other cities I've visited I still haven't found a shoe store I love as much as Lori's, "The Sole of Chicago." Every time I go back I try to steal at least a half hour there, whether I really need new shoes or not.
The store stocks quite a range of shoe styles, from cheap and trendy to luxe leather designer, and that's what makes it great, but the reason I truly love it is this: all the sizes are right there on the floor, available for shoppers to try on at will.
It really bugs me to have to ask a clerk to go get my size when I'm shopping for shoes. You try a few pairs, they don't fit or look bad once they're on -- how many times can you send the poor person back to the stockroom? Once, as a teenager, I tried on nearly every shoe at the Parkway Slipper Box on Diversey, and I'll never forget the look of exhaustion and defeat on the face of the poor man who helped me, knowing long before I did that it was a lost battle. At some point, you have to stop trying stuff on, even if you're not done looking for your perfect shoe. At Lori's, you could try on shoes until the cows come home, kick over the lantern, and burn down Mrs. O'Leary's shed, and then try on shoes some more.
I've only ever seen this set-up at places like Payless and shoe outlets, never at a store that carries new, stylish, well-made shoes. If there are other places like this please tell me, because I want to go to them.
Incidentally, Lori's is where I experienced my first credit card rejection. I was 18 or 19 and decided I'd use the family "emergency only" card to buy an expensive silver necklace. (I presume I planned to pay my parents back for it, but our records of this transaction have conveniently been mislaid.) The sale didn't go through, perhaps because the card had only ever been used to purchase my flights to and from college. I was visibly mortified, but my salesperson, Lori herself in those days, was the essence of reassuring breeziness, thus passing on to me the womanly art of rationalizing credit card debt and charging it in the name of style. "Oh, that happens all the time," she told me. "It doesn't mean anything. Do you have another card?"
Apparently I did have another card, because I still have the necklace. Lori's still has lots of great accessories in addition to all those shoes, by the way: this time I walked away with a new fall bag. And, reader? I charged it.
The store has several branches now, but I noticed Lori there in the original Armitage shop on this recent visit, talking business with one of her associates, and she looked pretty much exactly as I remember her back then. How does she do that? It must be something in the shoes.