Wellington shoe repair man is doing his bit to save dying trade
SHOE repair is a dying trade, but Wellingtonian Evan Giddens (right) is keeping the tradition alive with his purchase of a 70-year-old business.
Mr Giddens (29) has taken over Rupal Shoe & Bag Repair, near the corner of Cuba St and Ghuznee St.
The shop has been providing shoe repair, key-cutting and dry-cleaning for more than seven decades.
The shop’s previous owner, Amrat Chauhan, sold it to Evan and his partner Aline de Vincentis after 28 years of running the business.
“He’s been trying, half-pie, to retire for at least 10 years,” Evan says of Mr Chauhan, who started doing leather and upholstery work in India when he was a child.
“I think his wife wanted him to retire a lot more than he did.”
Customers used to Mr Chauhan (who declined an interview) have been surprised to see a new face behind the counter.
But most have grown to trust his workmanship, and a number of his customers have followed him from his old job at Zaloumis Master Footwear on Manners St.
“I’ve got a customer who comes from Waikanae because I’ve been doing his shoes since he lived in Wellington about 10 years ago,” he says.
“I’ve got customers in Whanganui who post their shoes to me.”
He estimates he repairs about 50 pairs of shoes a week, working with hand tools and vintage equipment. One of his sewing machines dates from 1907.
Evan was 18 when he responded to a WINZ advertisement for shoe manufacture and repair work in 2000. It took him four years to be able to make a pair of shoes from scratch.
His mentor – a “complete perfectionist” who trained him “to a very exacting standard” – learned the craft through the government apprenticeship scheme before it was dismantled in the 1980s.
While Evan sees the potential for a lifetime career in the Ghuznee St shop, he acknowledges that the shoe repair industry is on the decline.
According to Statistics New Zealand, the employee count for footwear manufacturing went from 940 in 2000 to 310 in 2010. There are 10 shoe repair shops left in the city.
“It’s becoming very much a disposable culture,” he says. “People are just going to throw out their shoes and get new ones.”