Friday, January 16, 2015

Shoe shopping in the real world

I'm still a bit wiped out this week. On top of getting my flu and cold experiences for the year out of the way, it has been too cold to walk or bike. I'm feeling very much like an out of shape cranky old man, as well as out of writing practice.

The only interesting thing I was able to do this week involved going down to Andersonville to shop for new walking boots. I had previously sacrificed a day and some bus fare to travel to the Lincolnwood Town Center, but all that resulted in was glazed over eyes from the monotony of empty cookie-cutter stores. I forget that most people drive everywhere and consider basketball shoes to be the best thing to put on your feet.

Alamo Shoes, however, is an interesting throwback: an independent neighborhood shoe store. They even have a nifty, clunky plastic sign, complete with clock.

Alamo Shoes - Andersonville - Chicago
(photo by Mark Susina)

I found what I needed within a few minutes and went off browsing up and down Clark Street. There's something relieving about popping in and out of different stores owned by local people. At the mall, I felt like everything was just part of the same giant global warehouse. In Andersonville, every business is different and reflective of whoever is running the place.

The other side of shopping at small businesses, however, is that they don't have any enforced corporate standards. When I was a kid, it was known that you had to watch out for the neighborhood butcher putting his thumb on scale. Every now and then, one still runs into a unsafe or shady practice.

(by Matt S. on Yelp)

Yeah, Erickson's has been closed by the city for multiple icky health code violations. Ann Sather's is also gone, having moved to a cheaper location in Edgewater. Which means that the old Swedish Flag water tank has been removed. Everything changes, and it's actually remarkable that this little strip of street has kept any kind of ethnic character at all.

(my photostream)

There have been a few financial stories lately crowing the death of the indoor shopping mall, but I don't think that translates into people actually getting out of their cars and walking down the street. It'd be nice, but it's probably another sign of Amazon's triumph at catering to consumer laziness. To me, however, buying shoes online seems like a terrible, terrible idea. Then again, I actually use my shoes to walk in, so what do I know about being a target demographic?

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