About us


In 1976 a partner from Giesche shoes, Paul Garrison, decided to break away and begin his own shoe store.  During his search for a location, he came across a quaint town located on the lake shore, 45 minutes north of Chicago. He immediately fell in love with the homey and close-knit town of Lake Forest and decided that this was the perfect place to start his business. However, Garrison was presented with an obstacle. There was already an offer on the table. He approached all of the local banks and finally First Midwest decided to loan him the money. He then was able to override the previous offer made on the store, and a deal was made.

Paul had to sell his home in Downers Grove to afford his new store, forcing him and his family to temporarily move to their cabin in Wisconsin.  For a full year he commuted two hours most days to go to work.  When the weather was bad or it was busy he slept on a cot in the basement of his new store. After two years of living like this, in 1979 Paul and his young family were finally able to move to Lake Forest.

The success that the Forest Bootery was largely due to Garrison’s business practices. He believed in offering his customers an abundance of products to choose from to ensure that they would never leave empty handed.  He worked hard over the years to bring in a selection that satisfied his customer, always trying to have selections that appealed to the entire family..  He always paid the manufacturers timely, boosting his available credit.  Eventually, Garrison’s strong work ethic and intelligent tactics lead to the Forest Bootery being a successful and prospering shoe store in Lake Forest.  With a keen eye for product and fashion, Paul often traveled with his wife and at times even his children to New York in search for contemporary product for the store.  Although throughout the years Paul Garrison had stores with various partners in Highland Park, Flossmore and Evanston, the Lake Forest store has always possessed the most personality, reflecting the Garrison family’s unique sense of style.


Cara and Cristina's Forest Bootery

When Cara and Cristina were just out of college Paul was considering selling the Forest Bootery. Cara, an art major, was just finishing her last few classes and Cristina, a fashion merchandising major, was working for Cole Haan shoes.  Over Christmas, Cara's boyfriend, current husband, asked Cristina and Cara asking them why they wouldn’t want to take over the Forest Bootery, it was just so fabulous. That got the girls thinking of what a shame it would be not to carry on the legacy. The two sisters made the decision to purchase the store from their father and took him out to breakfast to discuss their intentions.  On March 2nd 1996, together  Paul, Cara and Cristina walked into the Saturday morning staff meeting at the Forest Bootery. Paul stood in front of his old-timer shoe salesmen and told them that Cara and Cristina were now their bosses.

Not surprised by Paul's sink or swim approach, Cara and Cristina dug right in. With no direction, they learned everything the hard way.  Often during the first year the staff purposely left Cara and Cristina in the dark about what was supposed to be happening.  The girls worked hard, learned a lot, remodeled the store and updated the product mix.  When the Outdoorsman in Lake Forest closed it's doors in 2000, the Forest Bootery expanded into outerwear. In 2005, their success led them to open a second location in Libertyville. In 2010, the girls brought in reasonably priced women's clothing to mix up the product even further. 

The Forest Bootery's success has been attributed to a continued family mantra and strong morals.  Treat your customers right and always try to have what they are looking for.