BY JUDITH STEININGER | PHOTOS BY DAVID SZYMANSKI
No matter the language, the message is the same. In English we say “Life is short, buy the shoes.” In French the saying goes “La vie est trop courte. Achetez une paire de chaussures.” Russell Levin, owner of Picardy Shoe Parlour and Argosy, Ltd., concurs. “Shoes make or break an outfit. People frequently comment on them before anything else.”
Levin relishes being the owner of both stores because he likes assisting people with personal and home style. Picardy is located in both Brookfield and Mequon while Argosy is in Brookfield. Both shoe parlors carry fashionable, unique clothing and accessories. The décor in Argosy references Tiffany blue, and items from MacKenzie-Childs to Norah Fleming are in abundance. Merchandise presentation is essential to Levin.
What brought you into the shoe business?
I worked at Baker’s Shoes in Chicago during high school. My parents moved to Wisconsin and the original store was opened as a family business. Quality and elegance are our trademarks. Years ago, both shoes and furnishings were quite formal;
no longer; but casual or informal need not be without excellence and style.
Former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham famously said, “I can’t concentrate in flats,” but she’s Victoria. What about your customers?
When it comes to shoes, some occasions just call for bling and high heels. Picardy carries them. Attractive flats by Paul Mayer and Donald Pliner are displayed in proximity to the fashionable 3-inch heels of Jimmy Choo and Stuart Weitzman.
In both locations you are surrounded by upscale boutiques. What’s the retail climate like for all of you?
I champion small business owners because I know how difficult it is. Think how barren our landscape will be if the Internet completely takes over and all that’s left are restaurants and gas stations? With us you can touch the merchandise, find something different and try it on. We all love for you to browse.
How has the shoe business changed?
Size. Thirty years ago, the average sizes were 5 to 7 and widths included AAA. Now the average sizes are 8 to 11 in a medium width. Also, women won’t abide uncomfortable shoes. We sell 60 percent dress and 40 percent casual.
What’s your key advice for women selecting an outfit and shoes
Be appropriate. If someone is dressed appropriately they feel special and behave well. They should respect the event being attended.
Argosy has fulfilled some glitzy event orders. Dish with us, please.
I can’t drop names, but AMC Entertainment hired us to provide gifts for their stars on special occasions. We’ve shipped presents to England, France, California and New York. That’s pressure! We were part of the Golden Globes ceremony a couple years ago, providing monogram luggage tags for swag bags.
Name some nifty neighbors near your shops.
A couple of unique places in Brookfield’s Galleria West are Neu’s Hardware Gallery for fine cabinetry as well as Studio 890 (Salons) for hair and nails. In Mequon’s Towne Shop area you’ll find Learning Shop, A Zillion Toyful Wonders!