Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Cobbling against the Recession
While we used to have a good cobbler in my very small city (80,000), he became less and less reliable in his hours and in his completion time and now seems to have decamped completely. So I drop my shoes-in-need-of-rehab off now at a downtown Vancouver branch of what I think is a franchised operation, and then take advantage of Pater's good nature, getting him to pick them up and schlepp them home for me. The branch seems to be run by an immigrant family and they do a great job cheerily and efficiently with speedy turnaround times.
The round-toe, flat boots above have covered hundreds of kilometres of pavement and kept me comfortable while they did so, BUT I couldn't help be disappointed that at almost $300, they were still breaking down too early -- the top of the shoe was lifting from the sole all along the right toe-to-instep. They were otherwise too good for me to consider chucking them out, so I practised the economy of spending -- $60 for the two pair repaired the tearing leather, got me new soles on both pairs of boots, new heels and tidied-up pointy-toes on the stilettos.
I hear people talk about buying pairs of shoes for $60 or even getting two pair for $60, but those shoes are often unlikely able to be repaired. Both these pairs of boots, though, are in their fourth year of service -- I still enjoy wearing them and can't see being tired of the style in the next two years at least, so spending a bit more on them was my kind of frugality.
Chatting with the cobbler when we dropped the shoes off, I asked him how the recession was affecting business. Turns out, as might be expected, that if you want a recession-proof business, you should learn to cobble! He said that a year ago, 80% of his business was working on new shoes whereas now 5% of his business is new, the rest older shoes needing refurbishment. Apparently, when the economy is good, people buy new shoes and need to have leather soles protected or given traction, the soft heel rubber replaced with a denser, longer-lasting heel, the tightness relieved by a good stretching. But when the economy is poor, since people still need to walk around, the cobbler continues to be busy, working instead on keeping soles hole-free and heels looking as spiffy as possible.
Speaking of spiffy, don't you love that great polish your shoes wear when they return from visiting the cobbler?