John Pearce 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, the 62-yearold’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 his 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 booming for the tinkering toolman.
Mr Pearce works on about 40 pairs of shoes a day in summer and up to 100 pairs a 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-fashioned 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 crucial. Cheap and ‘‘crappy’’ 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.’’