Beyond the Heel: A & B Shoe Repair

Beyond the Heel: A & B Shoe Repair

In an era where everything is instant, and the value of physical labor and the pride in craftsmanship seems to be at an all-time low—we appreciate those among us who dedicate themselves to making things better through the labor of their two hands, and are unafraid to get a little black on their fingers. 

This one is for these heroes. 

As a young boy, this writer had as one of his favorite places the shoe repair shop of Morris, the Russian immigrant, on 16th Avenue near 52nd street. I could stand for hours watching the shoemaker at his craft, with utter fascination. 

Behind the counter, he would stand, and alternate between taking shoes in need of repair, plying, banging, sewing and brushing, and returning shoes as good as new to their grateful owners. In the back was another shoe repairman, also from Russia, equally dedicated to his craft. And in the other corner was an appliance repair service—for which the store doubled. 

Something about the strong scent of the glue and paint for the shoes drew me in… a scent that I cannot forget to this day. The sight of the shoemaker standing there, dedicated to his craft, hammering away at the shoe which he placed on the heavy vintage metal “Cobbler’s Shoe Stand’ remains fixed in my mind's eye. And the sound of the heavy, ancient machinery whirring as they sewed heavy stitching through the new soles, which would give the owners a new lease on their shoes—and then onto the machine that had all kinds of sanders and brushes, giving the shoes that final sheen—still reverberates in my ears. 

That’s how it is with the senses that we were blessed with; we absorb the sights and sounds around us, and they remain fixed in our brains. 

Although Morris was too busy to speak with us, his work ethic and his craftsmanship will nevertheless inspire us. 

“Beyond the” series goes behind the scenes of the sites, sounds, and personalities of our Boro Park shtetl, a special project of BP24 which appears weekly. Comments may be emailed to [email protected]

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