Joyce Elvebo said she came up with the name.
“He just wanted to name it Comfort Shoes and I said no,” Joyce Elvebo said. “We need a real name.”
After rejecting Ouchies as a possibility, she hit on Tender Footsie and it stuck.
“People would come to us and treat Mike like he was a doctor,” Joyce Elvebo said of the popularity of their store among those with foot issues.
After selling thousands of shoes for hard-to-fit feet, the Elvebos are calling it quits, planning to close the store – unless someone buys the business – and start their retirement sometime this summer.
“I’m 72 and my husband is 77,” Joyce Elvebo said. “We have dealt with people who have extreme foot problems. It will be a relief not to have to do that daily anymore.”
The couple started in retail in 1960 with a shoe store in Elmhurst for 10 years before closing it and opening the new store on Geneva’s State Street.
Before that, Mike Elvebo sold shoes for another company, his wife said.
While Mike Elvebo would have liked to keep the store open, he had a stroke last March. After that, Joyce Elvebo decided it was time for both of them to retire.
Joyce Elvebo started the process by not reordering any stock since then, dwindling the array of shoes and cutting prices.
Customer Phyllis De Hart of Aurora said she was sorry to see the store headed for closure.
“We’ve been coming in here for years,” De Hart said. “Today, we weren’t planning to buy shoes. We were here for the jewelry store, and we said we haven’t been in there for a long time. They had a clearance [sign] and I have trouble getting narrow sizes.”
De Hart was out of luck because the store’s narrow sizes were already long gone. Tender Footsie’s stock is expensive, well-made shoes, costing $100 to $160.
“These are high-end,” Joyce Elvebo said. “We only did very, very good shoes. … SAS, Clark, Minnetonka Mocs, Dansko.”
Mike Elvebo was generally in the store weekdays, and she would join him on weekends, his wife said. After his stroke, she took a more central role in running the store, and he would join her depending on how he was feeling.
Work, they both said, was the central focus of their lives for decades.
The last time they took a vacation together was 32 years ago, Joyce Elvebo said. They went to Norway, where Mike Elvebo is from.
And he would take a vacation once a year to Norway for fishing in the fjords and she would man the store by herself, she said.
“Tender Footsie is him,” Joyce Elvebo said of her husband. “I named it, but he is Tender Footsie.”
Mike Elvebo smiled as he contemplated what to do in retirement.
“The customers will have to come up with a hobby for me,” he said.