Onish, who entered the shoe business in 1962, was a familiar face in the kids’ industry here and in Europe. After selling her Upper East Side store in 1994 to Stride Rite, she remained in the industry doing design work for brands including Stride Rite and Fiorini. “She was the kindest and most helpful person,” said longtime friend and fellow retailer Mary Ann Duffy, who met Onish in the 1970s at a show shoe in New York. “She helped people get started in business and keep them in business.”
Friends recalled that customers often waited in line for hours to have Onish fit their children with back-to-school shoes. Known for her straightforwardness, she often overruled mothers when it came to which shoes best worked for their children. Her expertise in the business also earned her the respect of vendors, which often adopted her suggestions for everything from color to sole treatments. In 1993, Footwear News inducted Onish into its Hall of Fame. “Once you met Sonny you never forgot her,” said son Paul Onish.
Onish is survived by sons Kenneth and Paul, daughters-in-law Barbara and Joyce, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.