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Putting her heart into the sole business After all, shoe repair still retains associations with blue collar roots. “In the ’40s and ’50s, when people got out of prison, that was the job they would teach them to rehabilitate them,”Smith said. But smith, 30, who makes her own clothes and buys everything else second hand, had become disenchanted with the fashion industry and shoe repair better fit her ideas about sustainable living.She loves being her own boss, being a craftsperson, living her values and working with her hands. “Deep down, i really enjoy it,”Smith said. “I like taking an old pair of shoes that is totally decrepit and making them look like new. ” But isn’t shoe repair a dying business? “You’d be surprised,”Smith said. “It’s fairly lucrative. ” Margins are good because she’s taking raw materials and creating cheap christian louboutin sale value with her hands. Thrifty folk will always try to get their shoes repaired, but there’s also a growing environmentally conscious community who’d rather fix a pair of shoes than pay almost the same for new, sentimentalists who’ll spend $100 to fix the boots they travelled the world in, and a high end market seeking protective soles for brand new designer shoes, she said. Women tend to buy more shoes, so it seems a little disconnected most shoe repairers are men, smith said. “I’m hearing horror stories of people getting their christian louboutin’s done by an old man who doesn’t realize the red soles are christian louboutin sale supposed to stay red no understanding the fashion and the brand. ” The very fact that two thirds of vancouver cobblers have closed shop in the last 20 or 30 years means more business for those who are left, said ron nijdam, 55, whose quick cobbler on west 2nd and cambie in vancouver is the largest single location shoe repair store in canada with 10 employees, half of whom are women. “There’s the same or more people walking around and they are all wearing shoes”He said. “In my neighbourhood, i have a monopoly because there’s no one else near me. ” Nijdam has a theory on cobbler attrition and it has nothing to do with technology or a shrinking market. “When i started most shoe repairers were italian, ukrainian, and they learned the way i learned, from my dad and my grandfather,”Nijdam said. “They came over here and they were excellent craftsmen, but there were many of them.They said to their kids, ‘whatever you do after school, go to university.This shoe repair thing sucks because i have to work way too hard for the few dollars i make.’ And all these kids became doctors, lawyers, dentists, but none of them became shoe repairers”When their parents retired. The cycle happened again after a wave of korean cobblers arrived about 20 years ago. “I don’t see any koreans under 50 in this business,”Nijdam said. And don’t go blaming modern”Un fixable”Moulded soles, dutch trained nijdam said. “A shoe repairer without a computer is a dinosaur.The worst case scenario?The shoe repairer will have to contact the manufacturer and say:’Send me a pair of soles.’” Smith tumbled into the shoe business after visiting nijdam’s store seeking help with a pair of homemade shoes. “I was looking for material to sole them with and i was going as far as looking for rubber mats,”Said smith, who ended up apprenticing with nijdam for three years. Nijdam has trained 30 or 40 people over 35 years, and many have gone out on their own. “It’s a big investment for me, but there’s no other way to get people into this craft than by training them on the spot,”He said.His current employees include two”Lifers,”A former stone mason, a dressmaker, an art school graduate, a business school student, and a former data entry clerk. It takes a year to train a shoe repairer and another year to make back your investment,Nijdam said.Lose one third to attrition and shoe repair chains become a tough business model, said nijdam, who opened eight moneysworth shoe repair stores as an employee. “The larger you grow in this business, the harder it is to make money,”Nijdam said.He believes the future of cobbling lies in small, neighbourhood stores.He’d guess that 95 per cent of shoe repair shops are one person stores, with the remaining five per cent having employees such as a wife, son or daughter. Strangely enough, half of nijdam’s business is mail order or from outside his neighbourhood.He does a thriving business repairing blundstone boots. “These moulded sole boots are made in australia and we get them in from france, england, and from australia,”He said. Gold star shoe rebuilders is another vancouver fixture.The low key shop has been on dunbar street for about 30 years and probably owes its longevity to success at repairing climbing shoes and hiking boots, said shayla heggs, 34, who has managed the two to four employee store for 10 years.The store also sells hiking socks and footwear, and footcare accessories. Her rent is a manageable $1, 000 for about 400 square feet, and smith hopes to balance her local business with hip, young, environmentally conscious customers from nearby gastown and chinatown.She bought second hand equipment for $10, 000 and her remaining startup and inventory costs were minimal.She works to gets the word out via twitter, facebook or instagram once every couple of days. “That’s where shoe repair is untapped,”Smith said. Now smith is getting to know her neighbourhood.One market that’s found her are fashion photoshoots needing emergency repairs to models’ shoes.Another surprise is a steady diet of cowboy boots. She’s also discovered that people like to walk in, settle down, and share nostalgic stories about their favourite pair of shoes.
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