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SSIA Articles

Are You Thinking of Opening a Shoe Repair Shop?

by Dana Huval, Huval's Boot and Shoe Repair,

Crowley, LA

Do you know someone who wants to start a new career? Shoe repair seems to be the buzz right now. With the decline in the economy, shoe repair is getting a lot of nationally-welcomed media publicity.

First thing to think about is a great location. Strip malls or buildings in a busy area would be a plus. Look for a strip mall with lots of high traffic. They could house a donut shop, coffee shop, restaurant, post office/mailing store or even a hair salon. The key is to find a location that already gets a lot of foot traffic.

Once you find a great location, check out the leasing plan. That could protect you from the rent going up without a lease.

As far the business side of it, a business plan is a great tool. It will help you do research about your new adventure. Check with your local college, chamber of commerce or even a technical school. They could offer you help with your business plan. If you will need bank financing, your business plan will be a advantage for you to have. Your banker will know you have done your homework.

What about training? Do you know how to fix shoes, boots, purses and belts? If not, you might want to team up with a repairer in your area to learn these things. Hopefully you will have the ability to do the repair work before you open a shop, unless you are planning to hire a cobbler.

If you need training, there are a few people who can train you in their shops. Remember there will be a charge for this service.

If you are lucky enough to get training from someone in your area, find out if the cobbler might want to retire soon. Buying out their shop would be a great investment. They will already have a loyal clientele and with you working in the shop, these customers will be familiar with you.

You have many options with this business. My business life has been interesting. My father was a life-long repairer. He opened a huge western store in 1970 he opened a huge western store where he also had a shoe repair shop and also repaired saddles. (This is also my current location) He later passed away in 1987 (he was 50 by one week). My sister and I ran the business until December 1993. At that time she wanted another career, so we closed the business my father had. The following January, I opened a small shoe repair shop in the front portion of our building. I had seen how challenging the western business was and I wanted no part of it.

Machinery was a vital part of the business. My father purchased a new Singer patch machine in 1984 and everything else was older than I was. I started slowly by purchasing a rebuilt curve needle-outsole stitcher. Years later I bought a press, second hand finisher, fume buster, a few Sure Foot heels presses and just recently added a heat lamp and I have an order in for a heel popper. The heel popper is an inexpensive older machine, but my friends tell me I really need it. The next item on my wish list is a Clase sewing machine. Slowly I have added piece by piece the machines that help me do better work, and I am grateful to have each and ever one of them. If you are lucky enough to buy out an existing shop, you are already ahead by having the needed machinery with the purchase.

What will you name your shop? My experience is, keep it simple and easy to remember. My dad’s business was Cliff’s Western Wear and Shoe Repair. I thought it would be best to name my little shoe repair shop after my family’s last name. Well that just confused everyone.

Still today, 22 years later, the general public still thinks it’s a new owner not associated with my dad’s business. If I thought about it more, I could have made it easier by naming the shop after the street it’s located on – Parkerson Shoe Repair, the city’s name – Crowley’s Shoe Repair, or even Rice Capital Shoe Repair. (Crowley is the rice capitol of the world.)

You want to make it as easy for your customers to find you in the phone book or online with the yellow pages. Family names are sometimes hard to remember. I do have some friends who named their shops Cobblestone Shoe Repair, Shoe Hospital and I have even heard of the Cobbler Bench. Shoe Repair Station would be a clever name to have. Long difficult names might not be the best way to go, try to keep it as simple as possible. Just keep in mind, adding shoe repair to your shop name will immediately let people know what type of business you have.

This would also be a great time to have a logo created. I traded repair work for my logo with a local graphic designer and I plaster it everywhere I can. My aprons and shirts that are worn in the shop have them embroidered on them. Sure it’s added expense, but it is also a great form of advertising. One Christmas I gave all of my friends an apron with my logo and their name front and center of the apron. The great thing about that, they all have them hanging in their kitchen, which gives me visibility to all of their company just by giving them an apron. Don’t be afraid to have this done by a professional. My friend would have charged me $100 for the logo and it would have been worth every penny.


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