The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Kay Shoes Still 'Sits and Fits' Customers After 43 Years In Avondale

By Ariel Cheung | September 10, 2015 9:00am
 After 43 years on Milwaukee Avenue, Kay Shoes continues to mold itself to fit its customer base while still providing top quality service.
Kay Shoes Still "Sits and Fits" Customers After 43 Years In Avondale
View Full Caption

AVONDALE — Customers — even hard-to-fit ones — usually find what they need at Kay Shoes within minutes.

"Boy, I wish I would have come here first," they say.

Monyca Price Flack loves a satisfied customer, but she finds the declaration a bit of a let down.

"That's the disappointment. People say, 'Oh, I live right around the corner,' but people don't hang out in their neighborhood. They don't shop here," Flack said.

Slowly, as Kay Shoes remodels and realigns its focus with the changing tastes of Avondale, that's changing. After 43 years at 2839 N. Milwaukee Ave., the building's facade is getting a face-lift as the store expands into finer name brands.

The neighborhood has "evolved from being primarily Polish to Hispanic, and now I call it a mosaic," Flack said.

"Now we're getting young couples, young families. A lot of students, a lot of people who work at the airport," Flack said.

Monyca Price Flack operates Kay Shoes, a family business that has been located at 2839 N. Milwaukee Ave. for 43 years. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]

Discount shoes will remain, from work boots to no-slip server shoes. For each pair, Flack has a perfect customer in mind. Dainty, strappy kitten heels for a high school girl's prom. Converse sneakers for back-to-school. Steel-toed boots for construction workers.

Because Flack knows shoes. Her grandfather began selling $5 shoes in 1972. His shoe empire grew and the family opened stores in West Town, Rogers Park and the West Side.

The stock room at Kay Shoes, 2839 N. Milwaukee Ave., is loaded with shoes in every size and style, ranging from discounted basics to higher end heels. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]

It's still a family business to this day — a literal mom-and-pop shop — with Flack's brother running Alamo Shoes in Andersonville and their parents handling back office work and buying. Her kids help out on holidays.

"It's all I grew up in. It was all I knew," Flack said.

Having a business steeped in family history carries over into daily operations in small ways that add character to the unfussy, no-frills store. Ancient shoe forms hang in pairs in the stock room, still used occasionally to mold shoes for "problem feet," as Flack calls them. There's even one to help with bunions.

Shoe forms hang in the stock room of Kay Shoes, 2839 N. Milwaukee Ave. While not used as often, owner Monyca Price Flack said the forms help get the right fit for customers with feet of all sizes. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]

The old-school customer service remains, too, making Kay Shoes one of the dwindling places in the city that offer customers the detailed attention of a "sit and fit."

"Very few people are even accustomed to having someone help them [at other stores]. Not only bringing out what you're looking for, but also suggesting a nice pair of black flats to go with your outfit," Flack said.

New merchandise and the remodeling will help revitalize the store's business, Flack's family hopes, but it comes at a cost. Scaffolding outside confuses customers, who are unsure if Kay Shoes is still open during remodeling.

Kay Shoes, open since 1972, prides itself on a personal customer experience and quality shoes at a low price. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]

Business has dropped by about 40 percent during construction, Flack said.

But, her co-worker said, the changes are starting to work.

"People are coming a little bit further past Diversey. When I started her, we hardly got any foot traffic. It seems to be getting better every day," Faye Filippi said.

A customer browses at Kay Shoes, 2839 N. Milwaukee Ave., where new fall stock has just arrived as the 43-year-old store undergoes a remodel. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]

On Wednesday, Flack and Filippi (who has also been in the shoe business for 30 years) examined their new fall inventory, from Crocs to Converse and Salvanni to Skechers.

Flack opened a pink shoe box and pulled out a bedazzled pink sneaker. She expertly tapped the toe so it lit up, the rhinestones flashing.

"Oh, these will do great. They love pink," she said, perhaps picturing the perfect customer already.

After all, Flack knows shoes. It's in her blood.

New fall sneakers are displayed at Kay Shoes, 2839 N. Milwaukee Ave. {DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]

For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: