Park Shoe Repair fills a niche
New owners add cowboy boots and more
by Sally Mitani
When Kay Kendall retired last year, she sold her shoe repair shop on North Fourth Avenue to Todd Roberts and Duane Thomas. We don't cover service businesses in this column, so we didn't write about it. But now we can: Roberts and Thomas have expanded Park Shoe Repair into retail by selling women's boots, mainly mid-priced cowboy boots (around $150); a selection of men's shoes, mainly brands like Aetrex and Pedors that accommodate orthotics; and inexpensive and functional purses and belts. (The shop also has a large selection of polishes, inserts, laces, and other shoe accessories.)
Roberts says he and Thomas chose this particular shoe inventory because they don't want to compete with any other downtown merchants yet wanted to fill the space with merchandise rather than tired, broken footwear. But Roberts really wants to sell Alden shoes, a fine men's dress shoe made in New England. He says it's "slightly higher up the ladder than Allen Edmonds," the Wisconsin-based company that's a more familiar brand in the Midwest, and it's unavailable in Ann Arbor. He needs to order twenty-five pairs for his first buy, so he's offering a large discount to the first twenty-five men who preorder Alden shoes.
Roberts and Thomas have ripped out and reconfigured a wall and counter that had obscured a delicate wood and cast iron Victorian-era fireplace. It's not exactly showcased--the room could use a paint job, and there are some holes in the wall above it--but the mint-condition fireplace is a gracious and unexpected focal point. They also have a walk-in safe from the same era, an ornate, black steel affair with "Detroit Safe Company" stenciled in gold paint on the inside door. They use it to store their inventory of heels and soles.
Roberts works full time on the assembly line making parts for Ford (he says his job is secure), but he's been doing shoe repair for twenty-some years. He and Thomas met, and learned their craft, at Pells, the
shoe-repair company that used to rent space in Meijer. Thomas owns another shoe repair store, Rapid Shoe Fix, in Ypsilanti. So most days, the person behind the counter is Ausma ("Ozzie") Hoseney, who worked at College Shoe Repair on William for nearly thirty years until Roberts and Thomas hired her. Her job, she says, is to clean and repair "anything sewable other than shoes"--purses, book bags, and the like. Hoseney grew up in the business: her father emigrated from Germany and got a job at College Shoe Repair in 1952.
Park Shoe Repair, 120 N. Fourth Ave. 769-9066. Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Closed Sun. www.parkshoerepair.com
[Originally published in November, 2009.]