Forest Park’s “sole man” walked off into the sunset.
Frank Pusavc, the shoe doctor for more than six decades, died Monday his son Mike Pusavc said. The family had announced he would be closing his shop with the iconic boot sign at 7532 Roosevelt Rd. on June 15.
Frank fixed shoes since he returned to Forest Park from the Marines at age 28 and took over the business his grandfather started in 1915. He was 86. He was born May 2, 1927.
Frank married the late Darylene Hatfield in 1953.
As word of the store’s impending closing spread, last-minute customers visited the store Friday.
“I’m a 12-year-resident and I have no idea where I’ll get my shoes fixed now,” said customer Jon Juron, dropping off a pair of burgundy loafers and two pairs of wingtips to be re-heeled. “They don’t know how very much they will be missed.”
Some customers who paid for repairs years ago showed up and claimed their shoes in the past weeks, said son Mike Pusavc. Mike helped his dad since the 1970s after school and on weekends, and ran the shop a couple hours a day, after his full time job working for the River Forest Public Works Department.
The original Frank’s (run by Frank’s grandfather, an Austrian immigrant) moved around Forest Park, but the Roosevelt location has been home since 1950, Mike said.
Soon to be gone with Frank and his legacy, are the old fashioned machinery that fills the crowded shop. This includes the room-length lathe shoe polisher with horsehair brushes and grinders to cut soles to size. Also, the heavy duty sewing machines and sole and heel nail machine, which shoots hooked chunks of wire into shoe soles.
“We rarely use nails now,” Mike said. “Most heels are glued on these days.”
Used ice skates, once sold and sharpened at the shop, will most likely be donated, Mike said.
Customers could count on Frank and his son for complicated dye jobs like the two-tone saddle shoes in pine-green and brown Mike whipped up for a local fashion designer in Oak Park.
“People came to us with the specialty stuff that other repair places can’t do,” Mike said.
Leftover shoes never picked up will probably go to charity, Mike said. There have been inquiries about the boot sign (which once had a neon hanger below it until kids with snowballs took it out.) The old equipment will probably be sold off.
Pusavc family members live in the building, which should soon go up for sale. The building was first noted on tax rolls in 1908, but the original tin ceiling and other vintage details indicate it may be older than that. Now Roosevelt Road is zoned for a TIF district, it’s likely the building will be torn down and turned into some sort of new development.
Health issues slowed father Frank down until the end, even though he loved being in the shop every day, Mike said.
“The the place has really meant a lot to him,” Mike said.
Frank was brother to Frances, Dolores and the late Robert. He was the father of Frank (Brenda), Laura, the late Yvonne, Michael (Virginia) and April (Chuck) Stanger and uncle of Deborah (Phil) Reilly. He was grandfather to Courtney, Brittany, Amy, Michael, Briana, Justin and Kyle and great-grandfather to Abby, Jahniya, Logan. He was great-uncle to Jenny and Brendan. Funeral arrangements are pending through Joseph Nosek & Sons in Berwyn.