Charles Bolinger
2005 Grand Silver Cup Winner

Charles Bolinger of Chuck’s Shoe Repair & Comfort Center in Fort Wayne, Ind. was honored by his peers and awarded the Grand Silver by the Shoe Service Institute of America. The presentation was made at the 101st Annual Convention in Kansas City.

This year’s contest featured entries in three different categories. Bolinger’s work was judged best and worthy of the shoe repair industry’s most prestigious award.

Bolinger is a second generation shoe repairman who loves what he does. He started working in is father’s shop at 11-years-old and has been in the business full time since he was 20.

“Repairing shoes is my first love,” he says.

Bolinger received numerous awards for craftsmanship in years past, and was also named SSIA’s 2004 Retailer of the Year.

Since 1938, SSIA has been recognizing excellence in shoe repair craftsmanship and retailing with its Silver Cup Awards program. The most coveted award in the contest is the Grand Silver Cup – awarded to the craftsman whose work is judged best in the contest each year. Once a craftsman has won the Grand Silver Cup, he is judged as having achieved the top level of excellence and does not enter the again.

Bolinger was chosen for recognition on the basis of his workmanship. To enter the contest, he submitted a pair of men’s shoes and a pair of ladies’ shoes. One shoe from each pair was repaired with a new sole and heel. The repaired shoes were then refinished to look like new.

“One of the principal benefits of shoe repair is that consumers can have their shoes repaired to look like new, but for a fraction of the cost of new shoes,” says SSIA President John McLoughlin. “The purpose of the Silver Cup Contest is to recognize craftsmen such as Charles Bolinger who maximize that benefit and set the standards for our industry.”

McLoughlin continued to say that the benefits shoe repair offers go well beyond the cost savings. There is the environmental benefit of the millions of pairs of shoes that do not end up in land fills each year. There are the physical benefits that a well maintained, high quality pair of shoes brings. Finally, there are the medical benefits of shoe repair offered by shops that specialize in orthopedic work.

“All of these benefits start with superior craftsmanship,” he says. “That is why craftsmen such as Charles Bolinger are so important.”

Judging for the contest took place in July at the Kansas City site of SSIA’s 101st Annual Convention. Master craftsmen with decades of shoe repair experience served as judges. The judges compared the repaired shoes to their unrepaired mates and evaluated the entries based on how well Bolinger had restored them to their original, factory condition.

Bolinger received his award from contest sponsor Gary Edwards of Sure Foot Corporation at the group’s convention in July.

The Silver Cup Contest, an international competition dedicated to excellence in shoe repairing, is sponsored by the Shoe Service Institute of America.