My hometown, Berwyn, and neighboring communities, Oak Park, Forest Park, LaGrange Park, etc. have lots of smaller mom and pop shops, coffee stores, and all the more which tend to thrive on this specific day. This year I made the decision to journey to the south side of Chicago, in the Pilsen neighborhood. Don't worry, this area was not decided by random chance. This was a deliberate decision to visit a very close family friend, who owns a shoe store with much success over the last 40 years.
The last time I visited the store was right around my 22nd birthday (6 years ago)! And after timeless chances of failing to make the trip, what a time more fitting than to support a Chicagoland small business. To my biggest surprise, the trek down to Pilsen was smooth as butter on bread – with practically zero traffic. I parked and made my way across the street to find the very great yellow awning with the store's name dead center, Burdeen's Shoes.
The store didn't have any customers in it, but a few workers in the back chatting, and I was immediately greeted to a very happy, smiling, and recognizable face, one of my best friends' fathers, Frank. We shook hands, greeted each other, and began to catch up and converse on a variety of topics, while I was incredibly impressed by not just the presentation of the shoes, but the variety and selection. There was ZERO question I would leave this store with a purchase - it was happening.
I do have many pairs of shoes, but you can't ever have enough Nike classics, such as the Jordan Retros. In fact, the shoes I wore that day, were the last pair I purchased at Burdeen's, a Chicago Bulls/Blackhawks-themed red, white, and black style mid-top. From this, you can probably assume I have a set form of colors I prefer in shoes, red white and black. The options for today's visit were heavy and plentiful, to the point where I remember saying "I'm just trying to decide what I want to try on!"
After a couple of passes, back and forth, finding the Kevin Durant's, Kyrie's, LeBron's, and other various Nike styles, I found one that struck my eye, the LeBron James Witness 3. This is a sleek, all black, cloth shoe, with a red sole and Nike symbol. There are some slightly other detailed marks, LeBron's signature logo, and the imprinted tongue of the lion symbol as well. When I put the shoe on, I knew it was the first winner.
There we were, one pair down and another to go. Now, I was really struggling. However, Frank's company and conversation helped me in what would become my next decision – an almost identical, yet slightly different, version of the Jordan Retro 1 High OG. As I tried on the Kevin Durant's, I wasn't completely sold on them – and I expressed my appreciation for the Blackhawks and Bulls color scheme on shoes. Then, the lightbulb went off for Frank, he said, "You know what? I forgot I had these, but since you're a size 12, they should work – I'll be right back."
As he returned, he had an all-black box with a golden 23 and Jordan symbol on it…and then the thought occurred to me, this could be very similar to the pair I have now, and it indeed was, except this pair was even better. The Jordan Retro 1 Mid is a fantastic shoe, one that emulated the style of a Chicagoan, dedicated to his or her hometown teams, but can also be presented in fashionable style.
After trying on both pairs, looking at them in the mirror, and walking around in them – I had myself two new pairs of shoes. "But that's not all." The store also had a sports-filled variety of hats, to no surprise again! Winter hat options were great for the Bears and Bulls. There was a variety of New Era football, baseball, basketball, and Blackhawks hats. If there's one team I do not have a cap for, it's the Bulls. I decided on the New Era 3930 all Red, curved lid style-hat. In fact, I have it on as we speak.
This trip was an hour most certainly deserved to be spent, in extraordinary company. A visit like this brings back a lot of memories of growing up with one of your best friends. And now years later, here I was with his father, having a conversation and reflection on a variety of topics from sports to professional careers, the history of Burdeen's, living in the city, and many more.
Small Business Saturday matters because of people like Frank and Burdeen Shoes. These individuals spend their life working very hard, six to seven days a week of countless hours, providing for their family, while bringing an exceptional experience to a consumer. Without these smaller establishments, the "in person" valuable shopping experience ceases to exist! Congratulations to Frank and Burdeen's for 40 successful years – it's an honor to be a fan and customer after all of these years.