Altman's Shoes for Men has been outfitting the feet of Chicago gentlemen for 80 years, but come December 31, the store will close for good. You've heard the story before—family brand gets crushed under the heel of big business—but it's poignant every time.
Owner Marty Altman grew up around shoes. His father owned a shoe store on the West Side of the city, and Marty began slinging footwear when he was 14. The shop, which moved to its current location on Monroe Street 47 years ago, has always been part shoe store, part neighborhood hangout, and has fitted generations of loyal customers with the perfectly soled dress shoe. “If your dad used to shop here, now you shop here,” says Marty's daughter Jackie, who's worked in the store for 25 years. “We've been very blessed over the years.”
It was Marty's other daughter, Dana, who in 2010 peered into the store's basement and discovered thousands of mint-condition deadstock shoes. Her father had been collecting them for 40 years—he'd buy up seasonal designs and store the ones that didn't sell. The basement was a literal treasure trove, says Dana, full of rare, beautiful shoes: hand-crafted Cole Haans from Italy, original Aldens, one-off Allen Edmonds designs that were never replicated, and cowboy boots in precious skins, to name a few.
But a storefront in the Loop is a tempting piece of real estate, and the Altman family couldn't control the sale of their unit. “Our building was sold to Kimpton hotels,” says Jackie. “Originally, they told us that they would have space for us—but they don't.”
Altman's Shoes for Men will operate through the end of the year, and Jackie is hoping to sell everything before then. While collectors and companies are interested snapping up the deadstock, Jackie would rather sell to individuals. “We're proud of [these deadstock shoes]—we know what they are and what they're worth and that no one else will have anything like it,” she says. “I'd rather be able to sell them myself and explain to the customer what they're getting.”
In November, all of Altman's shoes will be discounted by 40 percent; prices will drop to 50-60 percent off in December. “This closing is really hard for Dad,” says Jackie. “The store has been his life, his hobby, his enjoyment.”