By  on January 15, 2010

CHICAGO — Ultimo, one of the most influential luxury boutiques in the Midwest, is closing at the end of January.

Owner Sara Albrecht said despite a low double-digit decline in sales last year, she was not shutting strictly for economic reasons. However, Albrecht conceded the economy played a role in her decision.

“People are perceiving luxury in a different way,” she said. “People don’t have time for it anymore. The whole [shopping] experience — that was what we were about…it’s sad. It’s another old-school way that’s becoming obsolete.”

However, she stressed, “I don’t have to close. It’s a personal decision.”

She said she plans to pursue other career opportunities, and was uncertain if she will stay in the fashion industry.

“Everything has a finite life,” Albrecht said. “We were not in over our heads; that’s why I can close and walk away.”

The founder of Ultimo, Joan Weinstein, who became a fashion force, died of heart failure in November. She was 74.

Weinstein and her late husband Jerry, a New Yorker with retail experience, opened Ultimo on Oak Street here in 1969. She was an early supporter of many European designers, including Giorgio Armani, Dolce & Gabbana and Jean Paul Gaultier.

Albrecht bought the boutique about 10 years ago. She said 90 percent of her memories are good and she wanted to leave on a positive note.

The store sells a range of merchandise, from a $50 T-shirt by Adam to $5,000 evening gowns from Gustavo Cadile.

Weinstein opened Ultimo stores in Dallas and San Francisco, and launched Ultimo Enterprises, which consisted of the three Ultimo boutiques and various Jil Sander, Sonia Rykiel and Giorgio Armani stores and an Ultimo outlet in Central Valley, N.Y.

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