A Shoe Store Story

June 6, 2009 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

I don’t make it to the shoe repair shop too often. As a member of our disposable society I’d rather just buy a new pair. It’s not really surprising then that the neighborhood shoe shop I went to today is a place I have passed a few hundred times with no idea that it existed. It was more a cave than a store, a hovel filled with the artifacts of a lifetime of shoe making and repairing.

The place was infused with the spirit of the craftsman whose life’s work inhabited all the spaces and shelves and spilled throughout the shop. He was a gruff, grimy old man who peered at my shoes through large convex glasses and named the price for his work in a thickly accented voice. The whole intriguing setting had the feel of another time, of a way of life that has been rendered obsolete and disappeared, but here it still was, hunkered down, holding on, clinging to its niche like a barnacle on the ground floor of an old building.

When I returned the old man handed me my shoes, nicely fixed up and looking much improved, and gave me a gently admonishing smile, the clear message of which was I ought to take better care of my shoes, or at least allow him to intervene before things went beyond even his ability to resurrect them. There was a kindness in his manner, a spirit that I have sometimes encountered in such old craftsmen, lifers at their chosen trade, knowing nothing else but the world they have crafted by hand, year after patient year, truly the salt of the earth. I asked how long he’d had his shop at this location. 30 years on the same spot in a neighborhood I’d lived in for nearly as long.

He’d been making shoes since he was a little boy in his native Armenia. This shop was an old world he’d carved out in the new one, a kingdom he’d fashioned out of shoe leather and potions and arcane tools, over a lengthy span of his time. And he was a king whose subjects loved him, as love was the rule here, throughout his long reign.