When Nancy Klompus–wardrobe stylist and personal shopper–is looking for that perfect pair of shoes to complete an outfit for a client, she knows just the place: Linus Lounge.
But she can’t go any old time. And she is assured she won’t have to wade through a selection of just any old shoes.
Tucked into an upstairs apartment, Linus Lounge offers a small, lovingly curated collection of high-end shoes, available to those in the know for perusing only twice a year or by appointment.
The one-of-a-kind shop is the creation of Kristen Radakovich, a shoe lover who travels the globe looking for the best designs to sell in her tiny "shoe lounge."
She typically showcases about a dozen designers a season, stocking around five styles per designer in only about half a dozen different sizes.
"She is so far ahead of the curve," Klompus said. "The things she had last year, everybody has this year."
This season the shoes–most Italian-made, ranging from $300 to $600–include a dark blue peep-toe high heel with an ankle strap from Parisian designer Barbara Bui and a blue snakeskin pump with a large black strap across the top of the foot by Englishman Colin Robertson.
"They kind of speak to me," said Radakovich, who opened her shop two years ago. "I’m looking for fashion forward shoes with an edge–but not trendy. It needs to have longevity."
Much of the time at Linus Lounge, it’s just one customer browsing through the selection.
"It’s all about service. It’s all about something special," she said.
Dannielle Kyrillos, editor-at-large for the Web site DailyCandy, which spots stylish new stores and products, said that similar exclusive shops have been popping up across the country for the last year or so.
Such similar specialized shopping experiences–for instance, a boutique that brings selections to one’s home or someone who will make a personalized pair of shoes–offer serious shoppers the ultimate thrill: something no one else is likely to have, Kyrillos said.
"It’s the personality of this type of shopper that spurs these things," Kyrillos said.
And, she said, in tough economic times, if shoppers are going to splurge, they want a personal experience where they get something others in town are unlikely to have.
A visit to Linus Lounge feels more like visiting someone’s home than a store, which is sort of the case since Radakovich and her husband live at the back of the shop.
Located along a tree-lined street just north of downtown, the Linus Lounge is on the second floor of an older building that houses a clothing and home accessories store on the bottom floor. Customers can come for several weeks in the spring and again in the fall.
Walking up the staircase to the lounge, one is greeted with a room bathed in white with modern dark chocolate brown furniture and an elegant chandelier overhead–and shoe after shoe displayed everywhere from shelves along the walls to a coffee table. And Radakovich, who also consults on catering events, may serve up anything from a cocktail to water depending on how the client is feeling.
Inspired by a stint living in London, the 43-year-old Ohio native decided to bring the concept of more intimate shopping stateside. She’d noticed a couple of big names who had cozy lounges in London and also liked the less mall-oriented shopping experience offered by smaller stores.
She also noticed that there were a lot of brands that hadn’t gotten much exposure in the U.S.
She and her English husband, who works in online advertising, decided on Dallas after a visit revealed a warm climate and a fashion-forward population. She named it "Linus" simply because she liked that name.
Most of her advertising for Linus Lounge is done by participating in charity functions, getting mentioned in the media and by word-of-mounth.
Customer Carol Tillery Massey discovered Linus Lounge last year after spotting a sign for the store while shopping nearby.
"I was not familiar with the brands, which I loved," she said.
Massey, vice president for recruiting for a clothing company out of New York, travels frequently and said that she looks for a fashion-forward shoe that will also be comfortable.
"It was fun for me to find something completely and totally different," Tillery Massey said.
Images courtesy of the Fashion Spot forums.