3919 N. Lincoln
Marky Bielat trained as an accountant in her native Czech Republic because her mother, a fashion designer, thought she should have a stable job. But last year, with the help of her uncle (a distributor of luxury shoes), she started a home-based business specializing in high-end Spanish and Italian shoe lines like Baldinini, Kalliste, and Pura Lopez--hard to find in the U.S. but big news abroad. Last month she opened a tiny European-style shop in the rather nonexclusive North Center neighborhood. It's not just the location that puts Marky in the "destination shopping" category: at prices of $250 to $1,300, these are shoes to build an outfit around. Bielat gets them specially made by the designers, tweaking a heel here and a strap there to suit Americans' more casual tastes, and she orders just six pairs in each style to guarantee that her customers won't see their expensive new shoes coming and going. Bielat says she tries to focus on classic elements rather than trends, but for every pair of muted-pastel suede mules there's a heel with a hot rhinestone cuff or downtown-cool boots with built-in leg warmers. She also carries handbags by local "lifestyle designer" Mark Gill, which run about $1,000. Because Bielat prefers to focus on one well-heeled customer at a time, Marky is open by appointment, but if she's not occupied she'll take walk-ins Tuesday through Saturday 11 to 6 and Sunday 12 to 5.