There’s no busi­ness like shoe busi­ness

Cavelli’s marks 100 years in shoe re­pair, leather goods

The Progress-Index Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By Chai Gal­lahun, Her­ald-Post writer

HOPEWELL — Many peo­ple have passed by Oak Square shop­ping cen­ter on Oak­lawn Boule­vard in Hopewell and no­ticed the two big busi­ness land­marks of Bo­jan­gles' and Lit­tle Cae­sar’s. How­ever, there is a busi­ness that’s about 100 years old in Oak Square that orig­i­nally be­gan on Sycamore Street in Peters­burg.

That busi­ness is called Cavelli’s. If it has to do with shoes or leather, Cavelli’s can help, ac­cord­ing to owner Don Ar­paia, who was born and raised in Hopewell and grad­u­ated from Hopewell High School in 1982.

“We re­pair shoes, still. We’re still a shoe re­pair place, that’s our main thing," Ar­paia said. "But I make other things like gun hol­sters and tri­fold wal­lets. We hand cut, hand dye, and we can put your ini­tials on it. It’s al­ways been a hit and we do those every Christ­mas. We still make ring belts, and they’re pop­u­lar

be­cause they last prac­ti­cally for­ever.

“I en­joy the re­pair work end of things, tak­ing an old shoe and fix­ing it up, mak­ing it like a new shoe,” he added.

Be­sides shoes, Cavelli’s re­pairs lug­gage, coats, jack­ets, bags and zip­pers on just about any­thing. “We re­pair leather coats, clean them, con­di­tion them and dye them,” Ar­paia ex­plained. In ad­di­tion, he said, “We hand-clean things. They get dry and ashy from the win­ter and the heat. That leather is dry­ing out if you’re dry­ing out.”

Cavelli's also of­fers leather mo­tor­cy­cle ap­parel. For vet­er­ans and first re­spon­ders, the

shop also has an ex­ten­sive col­lec­tion of mil­i­tary and pa­tri­otic patches and pins.

The busi­ness be­gan with Ar­paia’s grand­fa­ther, who im­mi­grated from Italy and taught math and mu­sic at Vir­ginia Mil­i­tary In­sti­tute in Lexington. But he was also a cob­bler and op­er­ated a part-time shoe re­pair busi­ness. His two sons (Ar­paia’s fa­ther and un­cle) learned the fam­ily trade and ap­plied it to work for a Mr. Cavelli who had a busi­ness in Peters­burg.

“It orig­i­nated on Sycamore Street in Peters­burg,” said Ar­paia. “That was the owner’s last name, Cavelli. My un­cle went to work with him.”

Cavelli later re­tired and sold the busi­ness to Ar­paia’s un­cle. Ar­paia's fa­ther in­her­ited the busi­ness on his brother's

death, and he even­tu­ally handed the reins to his son.

“He started me in there when I was 15, and I’m 55 now,” said Ar­paia. “That’s a long time to be in one place.”

Cavelli’s changed lo­ca­tions a cou­ple more times be­fore it found its present home in Oak Square.

“We used to be in Cav­a­lier Square,” said Ar­paia. “Then we moved to the Cross­ings for 10 years, and now we’re in Oak Square, which I hope will be the fi­nal lo­ca­tion. I’m not plan­ning on mov­ing.”

Asked what still ex­cites him af­ter 40 years with Cavelli’s, Ar­paia re­sponded, “I en­joy what I’m do­ing. I en­joy do­ing the work. See­ing what the peo­ple need and spend­ing time with them. I don’t en­joy the pa­per­work,

com­puter, in­ter­net, the busi­ness end of it, though.”

And it’s still a fam­ily busi­ness, though Ar­paia’s chil­dren have other plans. “My mother still works here part time. She works twice a week.”

Asked how the busi­ness is far­ing in light of big stores like Wal­mart and the rise of in­ter­net busi­nesses, Ar­paia said, “It’s been good. It’s had its ups and down like every other small busi­ness. We’re still hang­ing in there and still around. We’ve got a lot of reg­u­lars that come in here, which helps quite a bit.”

A life­long res­i­dent of Hopewell who mar­ried his high school sweet­heart, Cathy, Ar­paia ex­plained his loy­alty to the city: “I still love Hopewell. We still have that home­town feel.

There are still a lot of nice restau­rants and lo­cal shops, the orig­i­nal shops: K&L, Quick Lunch, McCay’s Hard­ware, Heretick Feed and Seed. It’s still that home­town feel.”

In his free time, “I hunt and fish,” said Ar­paia, a black pow­der hunt­ing fan cur­rently wait­ing on a par­tic­u­lar deer or two (a 12-pointer and a 10-pointer) spot­ted on his trail cam­era. “Hunt­ing, fish­ing … Love them. And I work. That’s all I do. Never stop, never sit down, even at home.”

He added that he keeps up on the main­te­nance of his house and all of his fam­ily’s cars. “When you have junk, you’re al­ways work­ing on it.”

So what’s in store for Cavelli’s? “I just hope we’re still here and go­ing well,” said Ar­paia.

[CHAI GAL­LAHUN/ HER­ALD-POST]

Don Ar­paia ham­mers the sole of a shoe into place in the maze-like, spaceop­ti­mized work­shop at the back of Cavelli’s Leather Shop & Shoe Re­pair in Hopewell.

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