When Jeanne Bliss' father, Vincent Lombardo, retired from an over 40 year stint operating a Buster Brown shoe store in Des Plaines, Ill., he didn't have to wonder whether he had made an impact on the community. After so many years outfitting generations of children with comfortable and durable footwear, Lombardo had become such a pillar of the community that people flocked to express their appreciation on his last day at work. "He had become such a part of people's lives that there was a line of people three blocks long who wanted to say goodbye to him," Bliss says.
Lombardo's customers were grateful to him because he treated them like family. When young mothers would select the most expensive shoes, Lombardo would gently point them towards a less expensive, yet equally appropriate pair. If a customer was short on cash, Lombardo let them take the shoes and pay up when they had enough money. When customers showed up at lunchtime, he would happily share the sausage, pepper, onions, and garlic he loved to whip up each day on a hot plate he conveniently kept in the store.