One of the city's most renowned leather repair shops abruptly closed earlier this month, and with it vanished thousands of dollars in luxury shoes and handbags, according to multiple customers who say they were burned.
The website for Brooks Shoe Service, whose owner Mike Morelli had earned global acclaim for his leatherwork since opening his shop at 29 E. Madison St. in 1989, says the business shuttered on March 2.
No one had told Jamie Judkins, who left an $800 pair of Gucci shoes in Morelli's care last month.
"I had heard nothing but rave reviews about this place—it seemed like it had a really beloved institution in Chicago," said Judkins, who paid Morelli about $80 up front for new soles and a protective suede covering.
"I called him and left him a voicemail, asking, 'What happened to these luxury shoes I paid you guys for?" Judkins said. "I never heard anything. I just don't understand how someone can just shut down a business, steal thousands of dollars in property and just expect nothing will happen."
A spokesman for Marc Realty, the property owner for the Madison Street storefront, declined to comment on Thursday.
Danni Shan stopped by Morelli's shop in mid-February, dropping off a Valentino purse and Stuart Weitzman boots. On March 3, she got an email saying they were repaired and ready to be picked up.
But when Shan arrived at the store that day, Morelli was packing his store into boxes. He handed her back her purse, which was in the same condition as when she dropped it off. As for the boots, Morelli told her to forget about them, she said.
"He just told me the boots were gone, that he couldn't find them," Shan said. "I started yelling at him, and he said, 'If you don't shut up, you won't be reimbursed for the repairs.'"
Shan was eventually credited for the $160 she had paid upfront for the service, but she never located her boots, she said.
The listed number for Brooks Shoe Service led to a voicemail on Thursday that did not accept messages.
By early March, Jacquie Amacher had been waiting more than two months for Morelli to remove a stain from her $2,000 Chloe Faye shoulder bag, she said. When she went to pick it back up, she found nothing but a vacant store.
Amacher checked Yelp, where she found a flash community of other customers whose property had vanished in the closure. Some, including Judkins, vowed to report Morelli to the Better Business Bureau and local police.
"He's always had a gruff demeanor, but people put up with him, because he's the best," Amacher said. "But now, I'm beyond pissed. I'm mad and shocked that there really is no recourse for all these people who have just been screwed."