All-American Barrington store winding down after 14 years
The general store Norton's USA, which carries only American-made goods, is winding down after 14 years in Barrington, a decision that was by no means easy for owner Deborah Leydig.
"I love, love, love the store. It was finally this year, now, that I was able to say, 'I am ready,'" the 68-year-old said.
"We have great customers -- and that's what is so hard, because we have a conversation with everyone who comes. Kids we knew, now are in college and getting married."
The Barrington store offers a wide variety of products: men's and women's clothing, accessories, beauty products, food, candy, home and garden items, cleaning supplies, toys and more.
"I have always loved my kitchen items and housewares, from potato peelers to can openers," Leydig said. "We have the best cookware -- stainless steel, cast iron -- and Anchor Hocking glassware."
The biggest sellers are the holiday Christmas box cards, she said.
"Everything here I have curated and personally bought."
A former actress, Leydig was inspired to open the store after she played author Barbara Ehrenreich in "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America" at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago.
However, Leydig said, it's now time to "have some fun" and not be all-consumed by the store.
She plans to spend more time with her son and two grandchildren in California and her daughter in Colorado, and also wants to write screenplays. "I have so many stories to tell now."
Leydig lives on a 10-acre property in Barrington Hills with her husband Bruce Pfaff, a lawyer. They own a horse, donkey and pony, all rescues.
"I have a beautiful home here that I've hardly had time to enjoy because I've been so busy with the business," she said.
Norton's earned a business excellence award in 2015 from the Barrington Area Chamber of Commerce. On Wednesday, the village gave a shoutout to the business on Facebook: "Thank you, Norton's, for being such a vital part of our community for so many years. We hope the community will come out to say goodbye and get great bargains!"
When the store opened in 2007 at 400 S. Lageschulte St. it offered products from about 20 companies. That has grown to more than 500 companies, Leydig said.
"I tried so hard to buy American-made because it's so important," she said. "If you notice, every president says it. But it's really up to the corporations to change it."
A few years ago, Leydig said, she started having a hard time finding additional products -- at least, those at affordable prices -- and sales began to plateau. Her health also started to decline and she'd planned to transition to online sales even before the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.
She credited the help of her longtime assistant, Patty Horan, who agreed to go part-time a couple of years ago.
"I wouldn't have been able to do this without her," she said.
Leydig, who owns the Barrington building, won't say that Norton's USA is closing for good. She will keep the space for future endeavors, such as possibly a "holiday emporium" in November, she said.
"Norton's as we know it is morphing, and who knows what it will become. Stay tuned. But it will not be the same general store."
The store, closed for inside sales since the pandemic, will reopen 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday with more than 2,500 items on sale. After Saturday, sales will continue online at nortonsusa.com.