hanes polos Fox Chapel cobbler is keeping up with the times
Fox Chapel Shoe Repair is more than just a place for new heels and soles. Michael “Mike” Palermo shop is a service industry changing with the times.
The entrance is hidden right now behind scaffolding as Fox Chapel Plaza gets a facelift. Customers walk in through metal archways hiding the storefront. However, the store owner has been keeping things in step until the refurbishing is completed next month.
Patrons are loyal to the affable cobbler. Ladies pumps and men brogues get revitalized with the same care Mike uncle in Verona and other repairmen taught him a generation ago.
Fixing expensive shoes, favorite footwear and orthopedic fittings are staples at the repair shop.
Behind the front counter is a cavernous workroom.
The sewing machine is busy restitching luxurious leather purses with designer names. A coat with slits or tears gets stitches and repair. While everyone thinks leather, Mike has moved forward and learned to repair vinyl and other synthetics so ritzy backpacks and suitcases are given second chances, too.
The shoe doctor saves other unique items, as well. Spring brings many a favorite baseball glove for restringing. A leather hippopotamus, which works as a footrest, recently got its hide repaired. End tables with leather insets are renewed.
Not surprising, a large part of the back room, which reaches up to a second story, is devoted to repaired items awaiting pickup. Mike instituted a new system with color coded tags so forgotten shoes and belts get reunited with forgetful owners.
Mike wife, Lora, makes many a phone call to customers to remind them. She has been an integral part of the operation for many years. Now that Lora babysits a grandson, a niece, Ashley, is helping.
Whip thin and healthy, Mike,
60, is looking forward to the future. He has a five year plan for continuing the repair services.
Journeyman Chuck Carlson has taken to the specialized machines.
Mike has taken to teaching his apprentice, too.
“I enjoy passing on my skills. It is a craft. I patient,” the master craftsman said.
The future for Mike and Lora includes a camper as they take to the road traveling around the country.
And Mike plans to find a way to bring his Harley motorcycle along for the ride.
Sharon Drake is a Tribune Review contributor.
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