I always find shoe repair shops calming, despite the inevitably nefarious looks – slicked hair, gold teeth – of their proprietors. Perhaps it’s because I feel that, for the right price, they could smuggle me out of the country. They seem to feel the same way about me. Most customers are met with the same scowling “Vhat?” from the store owners. When the store owners greet me, it’s with a scowling “Vhat?” and twinkling eyes. Recently though, that’s changed. Now that I’ve been going to the same place for nearly two years, our relationship has progressed. When I walk into the shoe repair shop I’m greeted with a scowling “We haven’t seen you in a while.” After many years, and even more shops, I’ve found my shoe repairman.
As I’ve moved between neighborhoods, jobs, and offices, I’ve been to a lot of shoe repair shops. There was the one in midtown where they tried to sell me three tins of shoe polish. The east side one I wandered into one evening which charged me half as much as the normal rate for taps – and had a park bench inside the store. I’ve been to shoe repair shops where I had leather goods repaired, as well as watch shops where I had new taps nailed in.
From this, I’ve learned that there are three keys to picking a good store: old men, Russians, and price. Your repairman should be an old man or front for an old man. The age means that they’ve seen it all, know how to fix it, and don’t care to discuss it. Russian means that they will – as my Belorussian coworker once told me – do it best. Or, as I’ve learned, that they won’t turn down a job unless it’s a job that’s not worth your money. Which is why price-point must be part of your focus. Glitzy high-priced shoe repair shops are willing to do anything for money. Shoe repair shops which don’t appear to have been dusted for a minimum of two decades are not. They are willing to do any job that takes minimal effort in minimal time. And if that’s not why you went to the shoe repair shop then you are in the wrong place.
If you’re looking for the right place, this is it:
George’s Shoe Repair
109 Church Street
New York, NY 10007
Tell them you’re my friend. They’ll nod in approval and fix everything on the spot – even if there is someone else there first. They’ll do this all while scowling, and occasionally without acknowledging your presence. My shoe repairmen know how to multitask.