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Natural Awakenings Chicago

New Balance Store Emphasizes Selection and Service

Jun 26, 2014 07:13PM ● By Carrie Jackson

When Allen Adelman decided to open a first-of-its-kind shoe store back in 1995, he didn’t know what to expect. A former environmental engineer with a master’s degree in city planning, Adelman was ready to leave Boston and return to his home town of Chicago. He was looking for a career change and wanted to fulfill his desire to be an entrepreneur. Nineteen years later, his New Balance store, at Port Clinton Square, in Highland Park, is well-established and has taken root as a central part of the community.

The New Balance company was started in Boston in 1906. Initially it was a one-man operation offering custom-designed arch supports and shoes for policemen, firemen, waiters and others that worked on their feet all-day long and needed some relief. Today, it is a global company known for a wide variety of athletic shoes, casual shoes, apparel and other products.

“Although most people think of running shoes when they hear New Balance, it goes far beyond that. There are shoes for nearly every sport and activity, including golf, tennis, basketball, boating, walking, cross-training and many others,” says Adelman. “We’re more like a family shoe store, with something for everyone. But our main focus is always comfort and fit.”

While the overall trend in retail has been moving toward more online shopping, Adelman and his staff have managed to keep the shoe-buying experience something people come out to do. While New Balance has a website  that customers can order from, they do most of their business in the store. “We provide old-fashioned personal service and our customers are very loyal and appreciative,” he says. “It’s a place for Mom and Dad to take their kids and everyone can get a good fit and have an enjoyable experience.”

The store carries shoes for toddlers through adults, and offers a newly decorated kid’s corner that presents children’s shoes in a fun way. They have more than 15,000 pairs of shoes in stock, so people can walk out with exactly what they want in the right size and width. “We have six full-time and eight part-time employees, and all are extensively trained to be certified fit technicians,” says Adelman.

“We analyze our customer’s feet and their situation to find what’s right for them. Our job is to provide them with the right fit every time, along with the right level of support.”

New Balance shoes incorporate advanced technologies for support and cushioning, and are known to help resolve foot pain and many foot conditions. “That’s why so many foot doctors in the area send their patients to our store,” say Adelman.

The company also manufactures about 25 percent of its products in factories in the United States, which is rare for the industry. They often buy their materials from local or independent companies, such as laces from an Ohio supplier that has been in the business for more than 100 years. Shoes for children are formaldehyde-free, and all footwear is PVC-free. Shoebox materials are 100 percent recycled and recyclable.

The store sells more than just shoes. “We have yoga clothing, workout gear, clothing for tennis and the gym,” says Adelman. “We have accessories such as pedometers and watches, and socks and insoles for extra support that can help you walk better.”

When it opened, Adelman’s store was just the third to sell only New Balance products. He is proud to note that this pioneering example paved the way for others to open similar New Balance stores all around the country; now there are nearly 200 locally owned New Balance stores in the USA and Canada. But Adelman’s Highland Park location still ranks as one of the largest stores in size and inventory, and consistently ranks in the top 10 for sales volume.

The store will participate in the Highland Park Sidewalk Sale from July 24 to 27 this year, with big discounts on shoes and other merchandise. Adelman enjoys being part of the community and connecting with his customers year after year. “We have a solid product to sell, but service is what sets us apart. Seeing that we can actually make a difference in people’s lives is most rewarding,” he says.

New Balance North Shore is located at 610 Central Avenue, Port Clinton Square, in Highland Park. For more information, call 847-266-8323 or visit

Carrie Jackson writes at