Norwich - When the CVS Pharmacy moved out of her shopping plaza on West Main Street, Judy Legare fielded calls from chain retailers interested in the spot on the city's busy commercial strip.
But Legare wanted something "more fun" than another discount store for her hometown of 40-plus years. Norwich, she thought, could use a good shoe store.
Months later, she and her son, Dan Hustwit, turned that muse into the 20,000-square-foot, flashy colored ShoeNiverse store that opened this week at the corner of West Main and Asylum streets.
"I won't say it wasn't difficult," the 67-year-old owner of Legare Realty said. "But I just pure had fun. I think we have a good mix for everyone - low, medium and high (priced)."
The store, which will be open seven days a week and will start with 18 employees, will hold a grand opening celebration at 10 a.m. today.
The store's bright pink high-heel shoe emblem is placarded along the sidewalk outside the store. Inside, the shoes appear to be raining down from the ceiling through clear beaded strands resembling sheets of rain. Real high-heel shoes in the front displays stand out, with sparkles, flowers, polka dots, ribbons or bows, each with heels that seem to compete for height with one another.
The heels and colors come down a few shelves away, with collections of flats, loafers, standard women's, men's and children's shoes. There are sections of work boots, dress boots, sandals and casual shoes of numerous brands.
To the far right, comfortable yellow couches sit before enclosed glass cases that hold the high-end handbags and accessories in the ShoeNiverse Vault.
Adjacent to the vault, still under construction, will be a shoe repair and tailoring shop to be run by Adam Baglan.
While the shoe business is new to the family, Legare and her late husband, Dick, were veterans of retail. For years, they ran the former VIP household goods variety store.
Customers have noticed the "now open" sign that went up Monday. Doris Torres of Norwich said her husband works in the plaza next door. "Now I don't have to go to the mall," she said. "They're right here."