Shoes. We all love them and covet more of them. Am I right or am I right? But in this economy, shoe repair shops have flourished as many choose to get their worn or broken shoes repaired, rather than shelling out dough for a new pair. No one is busier than Vince Pacheo, owner of Vinny’s A-1 Shoe Repair in Sonoma, CA. Trained by his father in the craft of being a cobbler, I talked to Vince about his work and he graciously shares with us tips on how to fix our old shoes.
Vinny’s A-1 Shoe Repair
500 West Napa St Ste. 516
Sonoma, CA 95476
Natalie: How did you get into your craft of becoming a cobbler?
Vince: When I was young my father wanted to teach me to have a good work ethic. I had to come to his shop to learn the trade. I started from the bottom up from sweeping the shop to full soles and heels. “Take pride in your work”, he would tell me. He taught me that money earned is much more satisfying and builds character than money won.
Natalie: Tell us what a typical day is like in your shop. I hear the old ladies like to come by and chat you up!
Vince: Well, funny that you mention the words “typical day”. Each day is different. Some days I can have what I like to call an “in and out day”. An” in and out day” means that I get customers that are very specific on what they need. They drop off and pick up. Easy! I have other days where I feel like Sam Malone (the local bartender) and people come to share not only their problems but good news as well.
As far as the old ladies coming to chat me up…I love to treat my customers like the most special people ever. Call me old fashioned but I use terms like Gorgeous, Sweetie and Darlin’ (for those of you who know me, know that using those terms comes from a place of genuine affection). I think my older, female clientele like it when I harmlessly flirt with them. What makes me smile the most is when a customer pops in just to say “Hey good looking! What’s Cookin’?” Remember we’re talking about ladies that are in the 70’s-80’s. Bless their little hearts!
Natalie: You’ve seen and fixed a lot of shoes in your day. What are some of your favorite kinds of shoe fixing projects?
Vince: I think the easiest repairs that I come across are ladies dowel lifts (the type of heel you would find on a stiletto heel). Heel repair is the fastest type of repair. I can do a basic dowel lift repair in aprox. 3½ minutes. I remember when I was young, working in my dad’s shop. His shop was close to a large bank. The ladies that worked there would come during their lunch break with bags of shoes for dowel repair. We would knock out anywhere from 25 to 50 pair in an afternoon. This was during the 80’s when shoes that had dowel lifts were pretty much all we would see. It’s nice to see that they’re making a comeback.
Natalie: Shoes are like an artform and us women are obsessed with our shoes. What should we look for when shopping for good quality shoes?
Vince: Hmmm…that’s a tough one. Men have it easy. Styles pretty much stay the same and are called classic. Ladies shoe styles change often. I would say that comfort is key, ladies. Don’t buy a pair of shoes that are unbearably tight hoping that they will stretch out. I do offer shoe stretching, which works well, but if they don’t feel right in the store don’t buy them.
Also, reconstructing a shoe is very difficult. For example, changing to a different type of heel or adding or taking away straps. If it’s not exactly the style you’re looking for, keep looking. You could pay more for the reconstruction that the price of the shoe. Plus, a lot of cobblers may not want to reconstruct a pair of shoes. It’s almost a guarantee that they will not look factory made after the reconstruction.
Natalie: When is a shoe no longer mendable? Are there types of shoes that are easier to fix than others?
Vince: Since there are so many types and makes of shoes it’s hard to pin point when a shoe is no longer mendable. I’m sure you’ve heard the cliché “They sure don’t make em’ like they used to”. Well, it’s true. My father says that I work much harder than he did because the shoes are constructed differently today than back in his day. Molded soles, polyurethane, and plastic have become very common in shoe construction. Shoe Repair has almost become a business of problem solving. Super Glue, Shoe Goo and spring clamps have become much-needed tools of the trade.
Natalie: Are there any other crafts or art you like to do
Vince: Since I’m in a relationship with a woman who owns a crafty business (Nicole of QueenPuffPuff) and opened a sewing studio last year (StitchCraftOnline), I’ve discovered that “being crafty” is much more than a hobby. It’s a lifestyle. Most of the things in our home are thrifted, vintage, things we’ve made or altered.
Another area I like to get creative with is cooking. It’s a secret dream of mine to have my own cooking show. I think the premise of my show would be dudes can cook too and it doesn’t always have to involve grilling.
I love to collect record albums. The stacks of records were getting out of control. Nicole had mentioned to me that I might want to think about crafting with some of them. After doing some research we came up with Vinyl Frontier. We make record journals, drink coasters and bowls. After a year of making product, selling at craft shows, managing an etsy shop (vinylfrontier.etsy.com) and working my Shoe Repair Shop, I found it to be too much. I turned the blossoming crafty business over to Nicole and she’s run with it! I still help in making product but only a small portion of it.
My favorite part of being involved with a crafty business is participating in craft shows. Selling your product is fun but what I love most is visiting with other crafters. I love the fact that crafty people are very accepting, want to learn about your craft and share their crafts. Crafty people are just plain cool!
Thanks Vince for the great interview! If you’re in the Sonoma area, stop by and say hi! Now keep on reading for his top shoe repair tips!
Vinny’s Shoe Repair Tips
I would say that 20% of my day is answering questions concerning simple repairs. One thing that I take pride in is my retail area that is filled with the tools that can make the DIY process that much easier. When it comes to simple repairs, I always say Barge and Super Glue (or Crazy Glue) is your best friend.
When it comes to leather tears or separations, Barge and a simple spring clamp are the tools of choice. During the summer, sandal repair is a common thing. Sole separation happens usually because of heat or moisture from your foot. A light coat of contact cement (Barge or Shoe Goo) spread evenly on both top and bottom and clamped should do the trick.
Shoes that have a broken (plastic) heel base should be fixed with Super Glue. With Super Glue a little dab will do ya! It can be a messy process so make sure not to squeeze the tube. Tilt the tube and let gravity take over. Since Super Glue Dries instantly (so they say) there’s no need to clamp it (although if you can find a way to clamp, I say, what can it hurt?). Sounds easy right? Well, here’s the caveat; the heel of a shoe supports a person’s body weight. If it broke once it can break again (in fact there’s a good chance that it will). If you choose to fix your broken heel with Super Glue be very careful and bring a back up pair just in case.
Fall is here so I get asked about boot and shoe protection from rain and snow. For suede and fine leather you’ll want to use a scotch guard (Make sure that it specifies for suede). The leather will still get dirty and spot but with the scotch guard protection, it’ll make it easier to clean. For hiking boots or shoes that will see heavier weather or snow, try a scotch guard with silicone or Sno-Seal. The Sno-Seal will prevent water from penetrating the leather and condition the leather without softening.
If cost is an issue or even if you’re just not sure, go visit your local cobbler. I can usually give a few options that can work within your budget. Make sure you bring the problem shoe in to the shoe repair shop before inquiring about a repair.
Vinny’s A-1 Shoe Repair
500 West Napa St Ste. 516
Sonoma, CA 95476