Local News

Shoe repair shops thrive when economy is down on its heels

Posted February 10, 2009 10:22 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— As businesses hard hit by the staggering economy look for ways to survive, the show repair industry is seeing an increase in foot traffic.

Watkins Shoe Shop, 405 W Peace St., in Raleigh, has been around for more than 50 years. It has seen good times and bad.  However, during the current financial crisis, the owners say they are busier than ever.  

"We have some new customers that may be coming in and they've been digging deep in the closet to things thrown in the back that they may have planned to throw away. And they are getting those things fixed instead of buying new material,” Derrick Watkins said.

At one point, shoe shining was the bulk of the shop's business. However, these days, repairs are the core of the operation.

"Normally I would have just bought a new pair of shoes, a new pair of boots. But I can't afford a $70 pair of boots. I can afford a $20 fix,” customer Diane Cassel said.

Watkins started working on shoes when he was 7 years old. He and his siblings own the business and are following in their father's footsteps.

“My dad was what you would refer to as a master crafts man. There wasn't too much that I didn't see that he could not fix,” Watkins said.

A lot of the equipment used in Watkins' shop dates back to another time when the economy was in a slump: the Great Depression.

"We are very fortunate and blessed that we still have work to do," Watkins said.