It’s his job to get un­der foot

DAILY GRIND Step­ping into John Pearce’s shop is like step­ping into an­other world. Re­porter Lau­ren Pri­est­ley stopped by to hear why be­ing a cob­bler is still a great busi­ness.

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS -

John Pearce, 62, has been re­pair­ing shoes for nearly 50 years.

From the ‘‘ No man­ners, No ser­vice’’ sign on the counter to the over­whelm­ing num­ber of col­lectable shoes adorn­ing the walls and ceil­ing, Mr Pearce’s store is one-of-a-kind.

It is a com­mu­nity af­fair where ev­ery sec­ond cus­tomer seems to know him per­son­ally and he says that makes it ‘‘a whole lot of fun’’.

The Glen Innes store was opened by Mr Pearce’s fa­ther, Reg, in 1965.

At the age of 16, Mr Pearce started a four-year cob­bler’s ap­pren­tice­ship along­side his par­ents. He bought the busi­ness at ‘‘fam­ily rates’’ when his fa­ther died in 1975.

It was the end of an era, he says.

‘‘It’s a shame he died so early. Work­ing side by side with him – we just had a lot to talk about.’’

But busi­ness is still boom- ing for the tin­ker­ing tool­man.

Mr Pearce works on about 40 pairs of shoes per day in sum­mer and up to 100 pairs per day in the win­ter months.

‘‘I hate the rain but the busi­ness thrives on it,’’ he says.

He says the num­bers show there is still high de­mand for good crafts­men in the trade.

In the past there were a lot more gen­uine cob­blers in­stead of pop-up mall im­i­ta­tion stores, he says.

‘‘We call them cow­boys. They’re only given a quick six­month crash course in ev­ery­thing.

‘‘It’s def­i­nitely an old-school pro­fes­sion.’’

Mr Pearce wears cow­boy boots when he’s not at work and says they can last him up to 30 years with­out need­ing to be re­paired.

He says he doesn’t like spend­ing time fix­ing his own shoes.

‘‘It’s like me­chan­ics with their cars. You don’t re­ally re­pair your own shoes. I fix my wife’s shoes, then she doesn’t buy more.’’

The se­cret of his suc­cess comes down to the store’s his­tory and old-good busi­ness, he says.

There are now fourth­gen­er­a­tion cus­tomers com­ing from all over Auck­land to get their soles fixed by the shoe guru.

He’s been on his feet ev­ery day for al­most five decades and says wear­ing good shoes is a ne­ces­sity.

Cheap shoes are the worst to deal with, he says.

‘‘It’s the ones that wear out re­ally quickly, then they can’t be re­paired. But if you meet a cus­tomer who doesn’t have a sense of hu­mour, that’s an even big­ger prob­lem.’’

Photo: JA­SON OXENHAM

Cob­bling cor­ner: John Pearce says his shoe re­pair store is good old-fash­ioned fun.

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