For as long as he can remember, Dave Weinrich has been surrounded by shoes, and the distinct smell of leather, lubricants and rubber.
As the son of a shoe repairman, he grew up peeling the heels off shoes that waited in stacks for his father to resole them. As a teenager, he worked alongside his father in the Arlington Heights shop, learning the trade, before buying the business in 1985, with his wife, Cheryl.
Now, Weinrich sees the day coming when he will take his apron off, and come out from behind the counter.
When he closes up shop at the end of March, it will signal the end of an era in Arlington Heights. His business, Weinrich Shoe Service, dates back to 1946 in the village's central business district.
The only interruption in the business was the four years when his father, Carl Weinrich, was elected village clerk in Arlington Heights.
"It's bittersweet," Dave Weinrich said recently in his one-man shop at 41 S. Dunton Ave. "This is the only thing I've ever known."
However, with his lease up next month, Weinrich says he and his wife decided it was time to walk away. He insists the decision had nothing to do with the faltering economy, but instead said it was about his desire to spend more time with his family.
Word of his decision spread fast among long time customers.
Arlington Heights Village President Arlene Mulder counts herself one of them. She remembers taking her shoes first to the father, and talking about everything from village news to his volunteer work with the Lions Club of Arlington Heights.
"Weinrich Shoe Service has been a mainstay," Mulder said, "and the family has been so loyal to our community."
Another faithful customer, Marian Botterman of Arlington Heights, remembers when Cheryl Weinrich ran an old fashioned candy store next to her husband's shoe repair business, when they were on Campbell Street.
"They are long-standing people in the community," Botterman said.
Weinrich Shoe Service was a staple in the village, from his father's earliest shop in a wooden building on north Dunton Avenue, to the more than 30 years on Campbell Street between Dunton and Vail, to his present location.
"The business grew and grew," Weinrich says. "We grew, right along with the village."
His family's ties go back to the 19th century, when his great grandfather, Henry Weinrich served on the village's first board of trustees, in 1887.
The family's shoe repair business began when his father began selling shoes at Hartman Shoe Store in Arlington Heights. The owner repaired shoes in a backroom, and as Weinrich began helping him, he gradually learned the trade.
His opened his repair business shortly after World War II, and it grew with the suburban sprawl of the 1950s and 1960s. Weinrich's survived the downturn in the village's central business district in the 1970s and '80s, as well as the construction during its years of its resurgence.
One thing that hasn't changed, he says, is the business' commitment to service, Weinrich says.
"When my dad had the business, he used to get so backed up that the wait was up to two weeks to get shoes back," Weinrich says. "He'd always have these piles of shoes."
When Weinrich and his wife took over the business 24 years ago, they made a conscious decision to work more hours and come in on weekends when the shop was closed, to get the shoes out faster.
Their dedicated work ethic, however, took its toll, and Weinrich now says he looks forward to working on projects around his home that he never had time before to finish.
"The hardest part was deciding whether to continue or move on," Weinrich says. "We decided it was a good time to move on. But I won't be going anywhere, I'll be staying in the area."