There are those who love shoes, and there are those who love shoes. Kristi Ryan falls into the latter category. The proprietress of Grace, a new Bucktown shoe boutique, is bringing a whole new world of footwear to Chicago. And though her soles may be considered “high-end,” owner Ryan hopes shoppers won’t reserve them solely for special occasions.
“I want the phrase ‘high-end’ not to be synonymous with a wedding, or a night out,” Ryan says. “I think it’s important to have shoes that people will get a lot of wear out of.” Just don’t confuse wearable with plain or dowdy. The shoes carried by Grace are fancy, flirty and full of class; they just happen to be versatile enough for everyday wear. Kristi’s kicks can be paired with everything from jeans to tights to a little black dress.
Ryan, a former executive recruiter, opened her shop with a major goal in mind. “I set out to find unique brands that aren’t popular in Chicago, or even in the U.S.,” she says. She has succeeded. Most of the brands carried at her store are exclusive to Chicago, so the chances of standing next to your shoes at a party are quite slim. Adorning the simple shelves in the marble-and-wood store are flats by British designer Anya Hindmarch, Elizabeth Brady’s Italian handmade heels and shoes by Gwendolyn Carrie, who is best known for her use of fish skin. In addition, Ryan stocks nine different types of Wellingtons (and Wellington warmers, too, for those brutal winters), purses by Alexis Hudson, and hobo bags and totes by Cate Adair, costume designer for “Desperate Housewives.”
Ryan is definitely one who loves shoes. But her affinity for them has been less of a torrid affair and more of a long-standing, stable relationship. “Shoes are easy,” she says. “Sometimes your clothes can fit weirdly or feel uncomfortable, but shoes always fit right, they always look good, and if you take care of them they can last forever.” (Molly Each)
Grace is located at 1917 North Damen, (773)384-7223, www.shopgrace.com.