Editor’s note: This story has updated to correct a reference to the store called Kangaroo.
Lois Combs is the “Lois” of Lois & Company at 2014 Central St. in north Evanston, celebrating 30 years in business this past week.
She first worked in corporate America and “hated it,” she said. She had always been interested in art and, with the encouragement of a friend, “terrified,” she quit her job and began hand-painting clothing.
For four or five years, Combs sold her painted apparel items at art fairs and home parties. She often sold out and would have to rush home to paint more.
Her first shop location was one of the stores on Central Street, opposite the Northwestern University football stadium.
Her best sales were on Iowa game days, for some reason, but, in general, it wasn’t a good location for her.
When a space became available on Prairie Avenue, just south of Central, Combs leased it for three years.
There, she sold her hand-painted clothing for the first year but, as the fashion tired, she began showing patchwork items and cotton jackets from Bali.
In 1992, the shop became Lois & Company and began carrying several tasteful lines of women’s clothing.
In July 2003, she moved around the corner to a higher-traffic space, formerly called Kangaroo, at 2014 Central St. There, her customer base is women 40 to 85 or 90, she says, with the emphasis on the latter end of the age scale.
She said she has “nailed” the look for older women who don’t want to dress like their daughters or granddaughters – but don’t want to dress like old ladies either. One of her favorite clothing lines is Habitat.
Combs said, “It’s special to me that I made it this far.”
On Dec. 8, Combs and her customers celebrated her 30 years in business with sparkling rosé wine, festive cookies and lots of purchases.
Flower arrangements from well-wishers dotted the shop. Appreciative customers called her “wonderful,” extolled her excellent customer service, and praised Combs’ honesty – she never tells a customer an outfit looks good on her if it doesn’t.
Reporter Manan Bhavnani contributed to this story.