Oak Park resident Alisha Kettner, 32, has been a vegetarian for over half her life and went vegan a couple of years ago. But when she made the leap to weed animal products out of her footwear, she found few options in the Chicago area.
"I tried to buy non-leather products, but department stores didn't carry [them]," she said.
After some Internet research, she found several companies — such as Nicora Johns, Cri de Coeur, Olsenhaus, Novacas and Coral 8 — which shared her animal-friendly philosophy. When Kettner realized there was no store in Chicago or Oak Park where the animal- and eco-friendly shoes were available to shoppers in one place, the concept for her new store, Amour de la Terre — French for "love the earth" — was born.
Kettner and her husband, Kristopher Kettner, 33, will bring their dream to life this spring with the new boutique, which will be located at 130 N. Oak Park Ave.
Not only will the store's selection of shoes, purses and accessories not include leather, but they will also be free of animal-based glues, commonly used in manufacturing, Kettner said.
"In addition to being animal-friendly, all products are from companies that minimize their environmental impact, with most using recycled materials," Kettner said in a news release announcing the new business.
Kettner says the companies that will be featured in the shop are "conscientious of the ethical treatment of workers."
Many of the products that will be featured in Amour de la Terre use microfibers that "look and feel just like leather and suede," she said.
She said the decision to open shop in Oak Park was an easy one because of the environmentally-friendly and health-conscious mindset of its residents. They chose the Hemingway District location because of "great boutiques and restaurants" in the area and heavy foot traffic, she said.
Kettner hopes the business attracts those already concerned about the use of animals in clothes manufacturing, but "the other really exciting part of this boutique for me is to bring awareness to these issues," she said, noting that the styles featured in the store will attract those not into the environmental- and animal-friendly aspects of the shop.
"Hopefully, the convenience of shopping in Oak Park and seeing some cute styles will draw them in," she said.
Real estate broker David King, president of David King and Associates, who brokered the deal, said in an email that the 1,065-square-foot space "will be a great addition to the village of Oak Park."