Winnetka boutique Gray slated for closure
“It will be sad to drive by the store,” said Laura Schoch, shown here in her store, “But I have no doubt my new website will be a hit. I think people want and need this." | JACKIE PILOSSOPH~for Sun-Times Media
821 Chestnut Court
Updated: April 15, 2013 6:14AM
WINNETKA — Laura Schoch’s decision to close Gray, the women’s clothing boutique she’s had in downtown Winnetka for 12 years, wasn’t black and white.
The Winnetka mother of two teenagers, who named the store after her oldest son said it’s very sad, but that the business has “run its course.” The good news: Gray has opened the door for other opportunities.
“I’ve kind of been mourning this for awhile,” said Schoch, who has lived in Winnetka with her husband, Bret and their kids for 16 years, “I knew this was the year I’d be closing, but it feels right and I’m bursting at the seams to get going on my new venture.”
Schoch’s new venture is a brand new website, Laura Style (www.laurastyle.com), where she blogs about fashion, gives tips, and highlights interesting places and designers. The blog is geared toward women over 30.
“I’ve been blogging and sending out emails for years about style, and what’s in, and women have really responded to them,” said Schoch, who plans to continue her monthly trips to New York City where she meets with designers to learn about new trends.
Schoch opened Gray in 2001 after leaving her successful 12-year career in technology for AT&T and subsidiaries of the company. The graduate of DePauw University said she really had “no clue” what she was doing when she first opened the store, but trips to New York, meeting designers and making connections helped her make Gray a success.
Schoch also said she hit an untapped market, as there were no contemporary women’s clothing boutiques in Winnetka at the time.
“Everyone was saying, ‘Thank God there’s a cool, urban store in the suburbs,’” she said.
Gray, which at one point had locations in Lake Forest and on Wells Street in Chicago, carries contemporary women’s clothing and accessories, including belts, scarves and jewelry. The store has many different labels from all over the world, but Schoch has always supported local designers, as well.
Victoria Freda, of Wilmette, has been a customer of the store since it opened.
“I’m so, so sad,” she said. “I’ll miss her and I’ll miss the fact that she knows me and all of her customers so well, and when you go in there, you are getting what really looks good on you.”
Freda said in addition to her fashion sense, Schoch has always been a huge supporter in the community, constantly donating money and merchandise to schools and philanthropic causes.
Kara Brittingham, of Winnetka, is a long time customer.
“Laura can look at a body and look at clothing, and know what will look good,” she said, “She has no problem saying, ‘Don’t buy that, it looks bad on you.’ She leads you to looking great.”
Gray will be open through the end of April, when Schoch will shut the shop’s door for the last time.
“It will be sad to drive by the store,” she said. “But I have no doubt my new website will be a hit. I think people want and need this. Every time I run into someone, they ask me for advice, and say something like, ‘I’m going to a wedding, do you think I can wear open toe shoes?’”
“People like me will follow her blog,” said Brittingham. “I can’t fill that niche anywhere else. She’s really unique and special in that way.”