By Kevin Smith
Funeral services were held last week for Irving “Goldie” Goldberg, the beloved founder of Golden Shoes who was a leader of the Palos Heights business community. He was 100 years old.
Born Sept. 20, 1911, the native Chicago south-sider was the respected owner of Golden Shoes, one of the oldest businesses in Palos Heights, whose interest in his customers drove his business to succeed.
Mr. Goldberg married Jeannette Goldberg in 1948 and raised his children Marc and Edward Goldberg. Mr. Goldberg’s loving wife passed away in 1992.
Mr. Goldberg began selling shoes at a young age. He first worked at Kinney Shoes, working directly under the store owner who saw promise in Mr. Goldberg and frequently took him to new store openings across the state, Marc Goldberg said of his father.
Mr. Goldberg originally opened Golden Shoes in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago in 1948, which he ran for 16½ years. As the years went by the neighborhood deteriorated and crime rose. Mr. Goldberg had a gun pulled on him on three separate occasions, son Marc said. Alarmed by the amount of close calls her husband had endured, Jeanette Goldberg told him it was time to relocate his store.
The couple decided that Palos Heights, with only one other shoe store in town, would be a great market for opening a competing retailer. With shoes in high demand, Shapiro’s, the existing shoe retailer at the time, was so overwhelmed with customers that they were asked to take a number at two in the afternoon, Goldberg said.
As Mr. Goldberg sought to start his business in Palos Heights, he looked to acquire a loan from local banks. The first bank decided that Mr. Goldberg’s business was too much of a gamble to approve his loan, but within 15 minutes of speaking with Mr. Goldberg, the representative of Worth Bank and Trust (now Private Bank) was convinced that Mr. Goldberg would be successful and approved his loan. Mr. Goldberg went on to open the Golden Shoes located at 12212 S. Harlem Ave on June 3, 1963.
Mr. Goldberg was a dedicated his life to his craft working “morning, noon and night” every day of the week, Marc said. The constant activity kept him sharp even into his old age.
“He was pretty healthy his whole life, and his mind was still sharp at 100 [years old],” Goldberg said.
“My father had an incredible work ethic,” Goldberg said, crediting his success as a businessman to his personality. “Everybody who met my father loved him.”
Kathy Baumann, the owner of Baumann’s Bakery has been a loyal Golden Shoes customer since the 1970s. She respected Mr. Goldberg’s ability to engage customers. In addition to being a respected businessman, Baumann said that Mr. Goldberg was a reliable neighbor. For years, they did business a few doors away from each other on Harlem Avenue.
“[Golden Shoes] always made us feel like family,” Baumann said. “They took an interest in your feet and well-being.”
Local businesses were known to advertise around Mr. Goldberg’s distinctive Harlem Avenue location, Baumann said. She added that Golden Shoes was “almost like a landmark” of the Palos area.
“He was the epitome of a local merchant,” said Palos Heights Mayor Bob Straz.
Mr. Goldberg is survived by his children Marc (the late Barbara) and Edward (Linda Trytek) and grandchildren Katie, Erica, Jessica and Aliza.
A chapel service was held April 24 at Shalom Memorial Funeral Home in Arlington Heights. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Orland Park Rotary Club.