the owner

This is the long version…

I grew up in the prairies, primarily in the city with a skateboard under my feet, but spent some time at the farm working in the pens with wild boar or swathing and bailing alfalfa.  Started a small t-shirt business when I was twelve.  Sold enough shirts to my family and friends to buy a new skateboard so that was pretty much that.  Had a hundred jobs and then in 1999 I started working as a cobbler’s apprentice.  I was a crusty little punk working any job I could get.  I’d get to know the work and I would move on to the next job always trying find something different to learn new skills.  I was walking through a mall and came across a shoe repair shop with a help wanted sign.  I hadn’t been to a cobbler in my life but had always fixed my skate shoes with the leather patches from my jeans and some shoe goo or re-stitched the soles of my Doc Martens back on with fishing line when the old thread would break.  I watch the guy for a while.  He had a long gray ponytail down to his ass, a long grey beard down to his waist, round spectacles and a rad leather smock.  Maybe you’re thinking of Santa Clause but this guy was tall and lanky.  I went over and got talking with him.  He was a cool old hippie, a second generation cobbler, and took me on as an apprentice.  It was a while before I was permitted to work on customers wares, so I was given a box of old shoes to learn on.  I gained a lot from him, a lot of the old ways of working and finishing by hand, but it was a fairly short stint.  He closed the shop to run another one that made shoes and he set me up with a friend of his that was selling his place.  I ended up running this little shop myself until he sold it.  Kind of a trial by fire.  I remember calling him for advice when I got something I had never seen before.  When he was teaching me he always made me fix the shoe first before he would show me how to do it, in this way, he said, I may come up with a different way that is as good or better, or at least I’d know how not to do it.  This definitely helped when I was on my own in the little shop.  Once it was sold though I was out.  At the time there was little work for a cobbler if you weren’t an owner operator and I decided against buying the place.  Thinking that it was too serious for me at that age.  Four years later I realized that was exactly what I wanted to do and opened my own.  By then I had worked at the leather and findings wholesaler that I used to order supplies from, in a factory making cowboy boots and ropers, as an orthopedic technician in an orthotic and prosthetic clinic and another hundred jobs unrelated to shoes.  After a couple years I decided it was time again to do something completely different.  So I sold the farm.  Went snowboarding and fractured my spine.  Pulled through that and thought maybe I’ll go back to school.  I studied acting for film and television, got an agent, moved away and even did a few things.  Between auditioning for roles I was making art.  Selling a bit but that soon ran out and it was time to find some work.  I walked into a shop down the block from my apartment that claimed they made shoes for the stars and got a job on the spot doing the repairs that came in.  The place was a circus and the old Italian shoe maker was bananas but I learned a lot.  That was the first time I made a pair of shoes from start to finish.  I was hooked.  They were moving locations and I was pretty tired of the old guys threatening each other with knives, entertaining but tiring, and I moved on to another place.  A super clean and chill place.  It was a small shop, just me and the owner,  just doing repairs.  It didn’t take me long to see that this guy was the best cobbler I’ve seen yet.  And he was a great teacher.  No matter how long you do something you never know it all and the better you get at something the more room you can see for improvement.  I was only there two or three days a week to pick up the slack and the rest of the time I was still working on my art and doing the odd audition.  I was given a solo show at a gallery for an installation project and was able to offer a couple workshops while my work was there.  I decided to do an origami workshop, which was related to the installation, and a moccasin making workshop, inspired by my desire to make shoes and my Cree ancestry.  The moccasin workshop filled up and things sort of snowballed from there.  I continued to do workshops on my own, and still do, as well as sold to some shops and individual orders.  I picked up a couple days working for a third generation Dutch shoe maker who offered a shoe making class, to employees only, on Saturday mornings and learned a ton from him.  I visited New York, met a girl named Flo, and decided this is the place for me and here I am.  The shop is open.  Come on in.

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2 thoughts on “the owner

  1. well isn’t that a heartwarming story. kidding. you’re in inspiration. keep on keepin on. a pleasure to know you. peace out.

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