Home Back Issues April 2009 Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled heels

Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled heels

| Print |  Email
Archives - April 2009
Wednesday, April 01, 2009

ShoeRepair Waiting for a new sole at Derek’s Shoe Repair in Portland. The cobbler business is booming.

STATEWIDE Need those Italian leather loafers or well-worn hiking boots resoled? Don’t be surprised if you wait three weeks for the repair.

Backups that long at Sedlak’s Boots & Shoes – the sole surviving repair outfit in Corvallis – forced owner Paul Mumford out of retirement in February to rescue his cobbler from a mounting pile of fatigued footwear.

“He was just swamped,” says Mumford, who used to also own Sedlak’s stores in Lincoln City, McMinnville and Eugene. “We’re the last ones standing in town.”

Shrinking, yet countercyclical, the shoe repair business is now booming for Oregon’s survivors. As the economy tanked last fall, customers looked to squeeze more life out of old wares, increasing demand for these services. Year-over-year repair sales are up 20% to 30%, many area stores report, paralleling national trends.

Entrenched cobblers have also gained market share as mom-and-pop rivals retire without replacements and shutter their shops. As a percentage of its total workforce, Oregon has the country’s fifth-highest concentration of shoe and leather workers/repairers, according to a 2007 Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

When Sedlak’s opened downtown in 1944, Corvallis supported 11 cobblers. The college town even had its own nine-month shoe repair school through the early 1990s. Now only Sedlak’s remains, since its only Corvallis competitor closed in September. The U.S. has about 7,000 repair shops left, compared to 120,000 during the Great Depression, according to the Shoe Service Institute of America. The industry shrank alongside the rise of mass-produced, made-in-China shoes, with glued-on bottoms instead of stitched insoles, often cheaper to dispose of and replace than repair.

“We turn a lot of people away, if the shoe’s dead, not worth our time and a waste to invest in,” says Marty Krogh, owner of Art & Sole Comfort Footwear in North Portland. He planned to focus on retailing high-quality clogs and boots when the store opened five years ago. But since last fall, demand pushed Krogh to say yes to more repairs.

“People notice the problems in their shoes a lot faster here” because of the weather, says Henry Roehr, who runs Derek’s Shoe Repair in Portland. The downtown area had a dozen repair shops when Roehr entered the trade 13 years ago. At least two-thirds of those have since closed.

Customers regularly travel from as far as the Oregon Coast to Sedlak’s and to Olde Towne Shoe Repair, the only shop left in neighboring Albany. Olde Town weekly takes in about 100 repair jobs, nearly double what it handled this time last year.

“The work is as steady as heck,” says shop owner Larry Lindsey. “Who else has got that claim now?”

LAURA MCCANDLISH

Have an opinion? E-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

More Articles

Downtime

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
BY JESSICA RIDGWAY

Bob Dethlefs, CEO of Evanta, balances work and play.


Read more...

Fly Zone

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
BY JOE ROJAS-BURKE

The black soldier fly’s larvae are among the most ravenous and least picky eaters on earth.


Read more...

Kill the Meeting

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
BY AMY MILSHTEIN

Meetings get a bad rap. A few local companies make them count.


Read more...

October surprise

News
Sunday, October 12, 2014
roundup-logo-thumb-14BY LINDA BAKER

Cylvia Hayes, tabloid vs. watchdog journalism and the looming threat of a Cascadia earthquake.


Read more...

Growing a mobility cluster

News
Friday, October 31, 2014
0414 bikes bd2f6052BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

Why are there so few transportation startups in Portland?  The city’s leadership in bike, transit and pedestrian transportation has been well-documented.  But that was then — when government and nonprofits paved the way for a new, less auto centric way of life.


Read more...

OB Poll: Wineries and groceries

News
Friday, October 24, 2014

24-winethumbA majority of respondents agreed: Local vineyards should remain Oregon-owned and quality is the most important factor when determining where to eat or buy groceries.


Read more...

Healthcare pullback

News
Thursday, November 20, 2014
112014-boehnercare-thumbBY JASON NORRIS | OB CONTRIBUTOR

Each month for Oregon Business, we assess factors that are shaping current capital market activity—and what they mean to investors. Here we take a look at two major developments regarding possible rollbacks of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS