Shoe Makers

by Newark Talk Collective


Jule Spohn:
Just read the wonderful article by Barbara Rothschild in Newark Memories about the old shoe repair shops. Take a look at it for some great old memories. She really "hits the nail on the head."

I had a shoe repair shop two doors down from where I lived on South Orange Ave between 11th and 12th Street. The store, the sounds, the smells, the machines, etc. are exactly as Barbara describes them. I can still "smell" the fresh leather and the glue that held them all together as if it were yesterday.

Barbara, thanks for the great memories.

Where was your favorite shoe repair shop?

Hello Jule,
Our shoe repair shop was on So. 12th and 15th ave. When we would open the door the bell would sound and a little old man would come down to the shop. He would mark up your shoes with chalk where the repairs would be done. give you a ticket with a number on it. The smells oh yes. There were so many shops around the neighborhood. Never had to go far to a store. Good Memories.

Jule Spohn:
Hello Sam. You are right about "so many shops around the neighborhood."

One of the problems that I notice as I drive around Newark today in areas where they are putting up some pretty nice houses is that there are NO stores being built in those neighborhoods. The houses are nice, the blocks are nice, but where are the stores? It is the stores, the mom and pop type stores, that help to build a neighborhood and neighbors. Much of that is lacking in the neighborhoods that are cropping up here in Newark today.

My favorite shoe repair (we called them shoemaker)shop was on Avon Ave between 12 and13 Street. The owner, a little old Italian man was always busy repairing shoes of all shapes and sizes.
I remember leaving a pair of shoes there a few days before I left for Marine Corps Boot Camp in 1950 and I didn't have a chance to pick them up before I departed or anytime during the four years I was in the Corps. When I was discharged from the Marines in 1954 I went back to that little old shoemaker and out of curiosity, really not expecting him to remember me or my shoes, I told him of how I left my shoes there four years earlier. He asked me to describe them, which I did, he rummaged through a pile of shoes that were stacked on the shelf above his polishing and grinding machines and lo and behold he pulled out a pair of shoes that resembled those I left there four years ago. The cobbler rubbed the shoes against his smock, one in each hand, held them out to me and asked if they were mine. I was amazed and told him yes, they were mine, I would recognize them anywhere. The little old Italian cobbler smiled at me and is his broken English said, "They'll be ready Tuesday."

I use to love to go to the shoemakers-we would get the taps put on-or get a heel for hop scotch-or I would marvel at his craftsmanship as he made something so awful look good and last instead of throwing them out. you could wear high heels to the nub and he could still make his magic. The one I remember was by second ave. on Broadway.
Things really got rough when he started to charge a quarter for a heel-lololol.

Phil Lynch:
A little out of the area, but where I work at in the Bronx there was a shoe repair shop right up the block from where I work and he just closed his doors for good last month. He repaired my boots and a pair of shoes that I had. Just thought I add that.

Pat Miceli Haderthauer:
The shoemaker I remember was on West End Avenue, near Grove Terrace, in Vailsburg. Barbara did very well in describing how things were back then. You could get new heels, soles, half soles, taps...and with his heavy machine he could do repairs, not only on shoes, but on handbags and luggage too. Those days are gone. Now we just throw things away when they get worn or broken...and it is hard to put new heels on Nike's anyway!

Jule Spohn:
There were many times when I was a kid that I would go months on end with holes in my shoes, covered over with pieces of cardboard from cereal boxes or regular boxes, before my mother had the money to send the shoes down to the shoemaker. Sometimes, I guess in order to save some money, I would get half-soles on my shoes. As the saying goes, "we've come a long way, baby."

My shoemaker was on Jackson Street. I remember telling them to repair half the shoe or the whole shoe. Yes, I had taps put on my shoes. And also got our hopscotch heels from him. He use to let us watch him work. He put the shoe on that metal foot and went to work. We watched him cut the soles and glue them, I remember him holding nails in his mouth when he used them. He was our friendly shoemaker knew all the kids in the neighborhood.

It seems no one found my story amusing. I really made it up for laughs. I can't tell you how many times I went to the shoemaker to pick up my shoes on the promised day and was told, "they'll be ready Tuesday."

Jule Spohn:
Hello Quint. That was such a great story that I thought it could possible be true - back then - but not in today's world. Now, I feel like a "heel." LOL!!!

Nay, not feel like a got sole buddy, you got sole!

Mary Ellen:
Hi Jule, there was a shoe repair shop right on Broadway between 3rd and Van Wagenen Sts, and I believe one was on Van Wagenen St too
maybe it was the same shop that moved to your street. The smells from the shop was ingrained in your when I go to a shoe-repair shop now...I go right back to when I was a child. As I mentioned in a post awhile back...I said that if you got the rubber heels, they were the best for playing Hop Scotch! They stuck to the ground much better then the other kind. I remember the booths you could go in and change your shoes or wait to get your shoes fixed, and the machines too. Wow...another walk done memory lane!

Jack Bradley:
Since I grew up on So 12th between Madison and Avon during the early 50's, my parents probably used the same shoe store. I thought your story was really funny. Sounds like a "Seinfeld" episode.

Margaret Joost:
My husband saves any shoe repairs until we visit our son in California. It is the only place where you can find a real honest-to-goodness shoemaker.
The shoe repair shops here in Florida just nail lifts on my shoes.


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