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  • Tazia Machl

115 Years of Heisler's Bootery

Updated: May 15

A Hungarian immigrant with broken English and limitless endurance, the sweet smell of genuine leather, handmade shoes and customer service that has built lifelong connections. The story of Heisler’s Bootery is not just about a family-owned shoe store and long lasting legacies: it is a story of the American dream.

Success requires more than just products and hard work; it requires honesty, kindness, and ambition. As third-generation owner Jim Heisler knows, without the customer service and care that Heisler's routinely dedicates to its community, the Bootery would not have the reputation that it proudly holds. Since 1908, the Heisler family and its employees have devoted quality care to their customers. "It's more about selling shoes," Jim Heisler says. It's about providing true comfort, good conversations, and painless steps forward.

In 1908, John Heisler Sr. opened a small store which sold handmade work boots. An immigrant driven by the promise America offered, John Heisler successfully established himself as an

expert in shoe repair and leather. Trusted and beloved by the community, John solidified the Bootery's spot as a trustworthy and reliable store in Crystal Lake.

Today, John Heisler's legacy is scattered throughout the store, with handmade harnesses and saddles working as a reminder of the Bootery's humble beginnings. The oil-stained antiques are proof that not everything must be grand or shiny to be of quality- it must simply be made with care and devotion. Heisler's Bootery has never been a business of grandeur and pomp, yet that does not tarnish its worth. Despite its rustic appearance, the Bootery has always been a business that thrives on innovation.

The ownership of Heisler's Bootery was eventually handed down to John Sr's son, Leonard. Leonard carried his father's ambition, completely dedicated to the success of Heisler's Bootery. Under Leonard, the Bootery continued to grow a loyal customer base- members of the community, from children to businessmen, would visit the store to be greeted by experts who placed the customers' comfort first.

Now, the Bootery is in the hands of Jim Heisler, a former school band director who holds the same ambition as his father and grandfather. Determined to survive through Covid, recessions, and everything else this chaotic world throws at him, Jim Heisler has upkept the Bootery's legacy: outstanding customer service, no matter the foot.

For 115 years, Heisler's Bootery has helped thousands of customers find comfort in their step. In no "step" of the way was achieving this easy- every year came with struggles, and every year, the Heisler family strived to persevere through them. Even in 2020, when the Covid pandemic locked down the Bootery's doors, Jim stayed optimistic. With the help of online selling and a community that offered full support, the Bootery thrived.

However, it would not have thrived without the very community it serves.

Every day, the Bootery opens its doors and helps customers with a variety of needs. Some just want cute sandals- others are suffering and need orthotics which will alleviate the pain. Many need both. Mchenry County residents show continuous love and support for the Bootery- they will come in to try on some boots or even just to chat about history with Jim Heisler.

So, as we celebrate 115 years of service, we would like to thank you. Thank you for being part of our legacy, for proving to us that no dream is too big, and for letting us take care of you.

Jim Heisler with a Bootery Customer

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