Independent Shoes

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Trautwein’s Shoes
5227 Gravois, St. Louis, MO
Along the business section of Gravois in the shadow of Bevo Mill, storefront buildings are springing back to life thanks to the Bosnians, and the older businesess that have hung on up to this restoration renaissance.

But Trautwein’s closed sometime during the summer of 2003, and no one can figure out what to do with “the body.” The display window is a haunting reminder of what used to be, with shoes, decorations and declarations trapped like flies in prehistoric amber.

The mounted and laminated article in the window is from an April 12, 1989 South Side Journal, celebrating the shoe store’s 100 years of business. They moved from South Broadway to this Gravois location in 1923. In late 2002, I coveted a pair of shoes in the window and walked into buy them. It was like walking back into a time I’m too young to truly know, but the sense memory was overwhelming. One of the old men told me the shoe I wanted was not available in my size – check back in about a month when the new shipments come in. By the time I remembered to “check back,” the place was permanently closed.

While taking the above picture in summer 2004, the owner of a carpet business across the street came over to see what I was up to, and he filled me in. The elder Trautwein had died, the slightly less elder Trautwein was about to, and his daughter just didn’t know what to do about the store. Carpet Man then went into a mean-spirited diatribe about how Bosnians “buy all this stuff up,” and he wasn’t too pleased when I pointed out how they’ve brought this business section back to life with that horrible “buying up” habit of theirs.

Late fall 2004, and vandals busted in the front door, so now it’s borded up. Summer 2005, a deep mound of trash collects in front of the door. Somehow, some of the display shoes have toppled over, and the windows are beyond grimey. The daughter’s lack of activity has turned this place into a heartbreaking shrine, a fading momento of another era. It’s an unfitting ending; someone needs to show some respect and bury the body.
Before the door boarded up, I got this photo of the interior:

This just breaks my heart…literally.

Former Dreamland Shoe, Co.
Business District, Maplewood, MO
In 2002 (about a year before Trautwein’s demise), Dreamland was “Forced To Vacate After 53 Years.” At the time, a man at the hardware store a few doors down told me the building’s landlord had bigger plans that brought in bigger money. From the “after” picture (above, right) we see that T. Rohan Interiors expanded into the space.

Before it disappeared, I took quite a few shots of it, and in the process learned from a passerby that Dreamland was once supposedly a favorite of local drag queens because they specialized in large-size women’s shoes when no one else did.

While composing a daytime color shot, the owner unexpectedly walked out of his store and into the frame. I was stunned by this serendipitous event, and tried to say something, but I was overcome with sadness for him, and choked up. At least I have the photos of what he once had.

7 thoughts on “Independent Shoes

  1. Pingback: So Much Depends Upon a Red Goose–Tribute to William Carlos Williams « Davidtripp's Blog

  2. Thank you for posting this. I’m a St. Louis native(transplanted to Texas over 30 years ago) who grew up in High Ridge. Highway 30 (Gravois) was my lifeline to downtown St. Louis before I-44 took over. Last Christmas, I was poking around Gravois, taking photographs for potential watercolor compositions. I have chosen this storefront of Trautwein’s, and as I realized that I hadn’t written the address, and THOUGHT it might have been on Gravois, I went on the Internet and thankfully found all this wonderful information from you. My website is If you check it out, you’ll recognize some St. Louis landmarks here and there. St. Louis will always be my favorite setting for paintings.

  3. It is still there, the shoes in the window toppled and dusty. There’s a board on the door now, but other than that, it’s just frozen in a state of decay. Disturbing, really.

  4. I haven’t been down that way for a year or two.
    Is the Trautwein store still there, or has it been sold or remodeled?
    I have several wonderful, but sad, photos of the place myself, and I was wondering what had become of the building.

  5. Excellent post Toby. That is definitely an interesting stretch of Gravois.

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