Continues a Family Tradition at Algonquin Commons

Robert Guss and his wife, Amber Mullins, both of Palatine, are expanding their family business of shoe stores a little further with the opening of Shoelace Inc. in Algonquin.

Located next to at 2124 S. Randall Road in the former Talbots at , Shoelace Inc. is the newest installment of local shoe stores for Guss and Mullins. "It's always a risk when you expand," Mullins said. "But we saw an opportunity and we went for it."

Guss's grandfather was a shoe cobbler in Italy, and though his parents were initially both schoolteachers, they decided to continue the family tradition. Over the years, Guss's parents opened a Village Cobbler Shoes and Square Deal Shoes, which is still open and located in Des Plaines.

Guss, an engineer by trade, also worked as a consultant and financial planner. Mullins has worked in all areas of sales, from retail to buying and selling.

So when Guss's father's health started to worsen and he was getting ready to retire, Guss and Mullins UGGS On Sale decided to take over the Crystal Lake in 1999. They also own two Ms. Bossy Boots stores located in and Kildeer. Both say they have no regrets about their shift into the family business.

It's fun working with my wife," Guss said. "Amber handles the more creative aspect, and UGGS On Sale I work with the numbers."

"The two of us work very well together," Mullins said. "Of course there are fights sometimes, but we always work it out at the end of the day."

Mullins and Guss recently decided to move Village Shoes from Crystal Lake to Algonquin and change the name to Shoelace Inc. "It's the corporate name from 25 years ago," Mullins said. "But I think it gives a fresh, modern impression. Although the ironic part is that not many of the shoes we sell even have shoelaces anymore."

The timing worked out to the couple's advantage. Their lease at Village Shoes was nearing its end, UGGS On Sale and they wanted to reach more people. "We knew we had to either get bigger or smaller," Guss said.

"This was a great deal for us," Mullins said. "Talbots was already built out, so we didn't need to worry about building a store from scratch." They are still waiting for their custom sign to be finished and installed, at which point they hope to see an increase in traffic. "And we decided to keep the red doors," she added.

"With this location, we don't want to lose any customers, we want to gain more," Mullins said. The staff from Village Shoes in Crystal Lake all transferred to the new Shoelace Inc., and they have already seen familiar faces come in to check out the new store.

The owners are also trying to appeal to a wider audience. "While Ms. Bossy Boots is more like a boutique, Shoelace Inc. is a family shoe store," Guss said. Brands currently at Shoelace Inc. include UGG, Merrell and KEEN. "We want to offer a variety of styles and colors, more than you will find at other stores," Mullins said.

Mullins and Guss are also excited about the promotional events and strong community involvement of the Algonquin Commons. "It's a different atmosphere here," Guss said. During the 8th annual Halloween Extravaganza at the Commons, Shoelace Inc. will be handing out coupons for $10 off kids' shoes to trick or treaters. They also have mailers going out to local residents, and they are planning a special treat for Black Friday shopping.

After they settle into their new location and install their sign, Guss and Mullins plan on holding a grand opening event with other deals and surprises.

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