Waxberg’s Walk Shoppe
There are places in a city that change how well your life will go. For me, the indispensable location is Waxberg’s shoes. It was on Wabash for many decades, in one of those buildings with floor after floor of tiny, mysterious shops—furriers, jewelers and beauty shops whose clientele drift inside on the winds of word-of-mouth. I began to use Waxberg’s experts more than thirty-five years ago, soon after I moved to the city (word of mouth from a doctor, most likely).
The walls were hung with black-and-white photos of the first Mr. Waxberg, Isaac, a Jewish immigrant from Germany, posing with the tools of his trade—knives, grinders, slabs of a dozen kinds of leather. Waxberg’s sold and built shoes, but most importantly, did orthopedic work for those who needed shoes suited to the way they walked. Mine have been built and rebuilt hundreds of times over the years. Each pair has been more customized, until now they’re knee-high black boots with peculiar, swooping soles that look impossible even to stand up in, much less do the two-mile runs I put them through every morning. These days Waxberg’s is in Niles, bracketed in a strip mall between a Dairy Queen and a Panera. It’s been owned and run for years by Isaac’s son, Ron. In the beginning, Ron handled my shoes, but since then, I’ve worked with many others, including Ed, Jay, George, Chuck and, now, Ed #2. Each one has been kind and patient and listened to the idiosyncrasies of my gait. Without them, I don’t think I would be walking at all. Everything I do depends on how well I move around. So this is a thank you to the center of my daily world.
7013 W. Dempster, Niles, 847.965.3338, waxbergs.com
—Riva Lehrer, artist (Art 50)
Best of Chicago 2015