dave’s shoe repair / unionville, ct
June 5, 2018
“There’s an awful lot you can tell about a person by their shoes. Where they going, where they been.”
Like places, some things carry stories with them—and the older they are, the better the stories.
But people don’t fix things anymore—and things aren’t made to be fixed. Things are made to be thrown away and replaced. Windows, $1000 iPhones, cars—nothing is built to last anymore. It isn’t meant to.
I own two 100+ year old houses, and both have original windows, plaster walls, the same doors that were opened and closed in 1895, and hardwood floors that proudly bear the stories of 100 years of footsteps. And my husband and I have worked hard to care for & restore these homes to their original beauty—because they WERE meant to last. Everything can be fixed.
Shoes carry the stories of those who wear them. And like everything else, they aren’t made to be repaired anymore. And people don’t care to repair them. And so it goes that cobbling has become a lost art. If you don’t believe me, have a look at the definition in the dictionary. Or, try to find a cobbler.
I had a bag of boots that needed to be re-heeled sitting in my car, then in the back of my closet, then back in my car, then moved to a different house, then in the back of a new closet for no less than two years. I’d kept asking friends if they had a cobbler, knew of a cobbler, etc. I live in a city so I kept my eyes open for one, but never had any luck.
Then I came across Dave’s Shoe Repair in Unionville, CT. As soon as I walked into the shop, I felt a feeling that I can’t quite describe wash over me.
It’s like walking into a time capsule.
Faded records line the entry walls. Knick-knacks and novelties occupy every corner. Family photos depict each decade for the last fifty years. A small TV plays old black and white movies in a dimly lit sitting area. Sunlight shines through a window lined with shelves of porcelain figurines.
Dave was kind enough to allow me to come back and shoot his shop. He told me about how this July it will be 50 years since he’s been open. He told me how he came to be a cobbler, and how much the industry has changed over the last half-century. He showed me all of the machines he uses—a 1920’s Singer sewing machine, a Finisher from the 70’s, an old Landis “5 in 1.” He told me how the machines work great—sometimes they just need to be fixed. Like the shoes they repair, they all carry their own stories.
Sometimes the personal projects that we do are the ones that inspire us the most. I’d only come to have my boots repaired, but I left with so much more. To me, these pictures tell the story of a lost art, and the man who’s kept it alive in his own little corner of the world, and I am grateful to have had the pleasure of capturing it. Not to mention, Dave’s about as nice a guy as they come.
So here is the story of Dave’s Shoe Repair, in photographs. I hope it brings you as much joy as it brings me. Now go get your shoes fixed!