Gotskind’s Celebrates Historic 90th Anniversary!

Date icon Jul 20, 2024
11:00AM - 1:00PM
Location icon Gotskind’s Shoes & Clothing
115 West Jefferson Avenue, Naperville, IL

 After nine full decades blazing trails in a retail business increasingly dominated by giant multinational corporations, Gotskind’s Shoes & Clothing remains steadfastly independent.  

Family-owned and -operated since its 1934 debut on Chicago’s West Side, Gotskind’s Shoes & Clothing – now headquartered exclusively in the west suburban Naperville store that is, in fact, celebrating its own 40th anniversary – continues cultivating a devoted clientele among children and families across Chicagoland, and beyond.

“The Gotskind family and staff are top notch,” one five-star reviewer declares. “Great shoe store. Very large inventory. Friendly and knowledgeable staff.” “Amazing service and very good price,” enthuses another.”

As owner David Gotskind himself points out, “We are experienced at providing old-fashioned shoe fitting service, and we specialize in fitting the hard-to-fit feet.”

David’s father Saul, the store’s founder, was born in Poland in 1901 and emigrated to the United States in 1930. He opened the flagship Gotskind’s Juvenile Shoes in 1934, in an imposing city building that wrapped around the corner of West Madison Street at Central Avenue.

In the beginning, Saul Gotskind and his wife, Claire, lived in the back of the store – a rather bare-bones scenario that involved their having to bathe across the street at Claire’s mother’s place. David was born in 1937, and the young family took up residence down the block, in a one-bedroom apartment above a grocery store.

The fledgling Gotskind’s Juvenile Shoes faced challenging times in the early ’40s with the advent of World War II, when consumer goods along with food were rationed, and government coupons were required to purchase most everything. But the resourceful Saul Gotskind had put together a dependable network of regular suppliers, keeping up robust stocks of merchandise – and developing Gotskind’s Juvenile Shoes into a destination location for children’s footwear.

As the business flourished and David grew into a teenager, he started helping out in the store’s stockroom – graduating to shoe salesman in 1955, the same year he graduated from Austin High School. During the turbulent mid-’60s, the flagship Chicago store closed – reopening in Oak Park, “just across the street from Chicago,” as David relates.

The family then unveiled two more suburban Gotskind’s Juvenile Shoes, the first in Oakbrook Terrace and the second in downtown Naperville. During that period, the company name was streamlined to Gotskind’s Shoes; David’s wife Gail Gotskind incorporated the business and began expanding the Naperville store’s inventory with children’s clothing and gifts. Irresistible items from kids’ necklaces to stylish head wraps to Pillow Pets have appeared on the stores’ shelves – and then promptly flew off them.

The third generation of this thriving family business is personified by David’s daughter Andrea, who’s at the helm in Naperville. “When customers ask me, ‘Are you a Gotskind yourself?’ I’m deeply proud to say, ‘Yes!’” says Andrea.

“There aren’t many multigenerational stores left in our world, and people’s response to our charming place is so gratifying. I’m pleased to have learned the ropes at the feet of my father, who is simply the best.” At another children’s shoe store, Andrea recalls, the owner asked if she was “‘related to Dave Gotskind.’ I said, ‘He’s my father – do you know him?’ ‘Know him?’ the man exclaimed. ‘He’s a legend in this industry.’”

David Gotskind notes that independent children’s stores are a disappearing breed, with online shopping the biggest culprit behind their demise. “We’re the last of the Mohicans,” he says. That’s what makes moments like the following so very special: “An old guy came into the Naperville store, asking if this was the same Gotskind’s that had been at Madison and Central in Chicago. I said, ‘Yes, that’s me’ – and he said I’d fitted him for shoes when he was eight!

“It’s been 90 years,” David Gotskind reflects, “and we’re still hanging in there.” The store will hold its anniversary festivities July 20 from 11:00 a.m. till 1:00 p.m., featuring refreshments, a princess clown making balloon animals, and a visit from Naperville Mayor Scott Wehrli.

Gotskind’s Shoes & Clothing is a full-service children’s shoes, clothing, and gift store located at 115 W. Jefferson Ave., Naperville, IL 60540

Phone: (630) 355-1811      Facebook: Gotskind’s Shoes and Clothing