The fast-pace of New York City slows down when it comes to shoe repair. Businessmen, politicians, celebrities and people from every background are among the many customers of Jim’s Shoe Repairing. Located in Midtown, the shop is dedicated to its 85-year tradition of serving the community. Shoe shine and repair services may seem outdated, but the shop’s clients come from around the world to see the vintage shop and experience the handcrafted while-you-wait service.
“There’s three things you have to do to be successful,” said Joe Rocco, owner of Jim’s Shoe Repairing. “Give great customer service, do outstanding work and treat your employees very well. Those things keep my employees and the customers coming back.”
The shoe repair process is the same as it was when the store opened its doors decades ago, all by hand. The basement of the shop is full of hand crafters who quickly fix damaged shoes, cracked or broken heels, sole replacements and much more. Advanced detailed work including mold, fire and water damaged items are also performed there. While modern day equipment exists for shoe repair, the shop prefers to use traditional methods to maintain high levels of craftsmanship.
Shoe lovers can get everything from designer red soles to handmade Italian leather boots serviced. Handbags, belts and jackets are new additions to the shops repair services. Many repairs can be fixed during a one hour lunch break. For those who can’t make it to New York City, the store runs a successful mail-order business. Customers from across the country send shoes in need of a little love or a major overhaul to the experts at Jim’s.
Rocco’s biggest challenge in the repair business is man’s best friend. “Dogs chew our customers’ favorite things, especially shoes,” Rocco said. “We have to take our time to fix them right.”
The shop opened in 1932 on East 59th Street, more than a decade before the film debut of “Miracle on 34th Street.” Today, the store sits on the same block, just a few feet away from its original location. The shop is centrally located between luxury shops on Madison Avenue and exclusive Park Avenue apartments, home to the rich and famous of New York. Rocco won’t discuss who his famous clients are, but loves to tell stories about Ed Sullivan, a regular client in the early days.
Among Rocco’s biggest challenges of running a small business in a big city is the rising cost of rent. Several years ago, the shop had to fight with big business and local politics to keep its lease and stay in its location.
This year the store is slated for a remodel, but it will maintain its vintage feel. Framed newspaper clippings, old barbershop style wooden chairs and vintage seating with doors to cover women’s legs and feet, will remain in the architectural design. The dim lighting, reminiscent of an art gallery, will be slightly brighter. To keep in line with changing times, a delivery service is in the works for customers who drop items off but don’t have time to wait.
Rocco’s son Andrew is now a part of the business. He helps manage the day-to-day operations and speaks to customers about advanced repairs. Andrew’s memories of coming to the shop date back to his preschool days. As a millennial working in what some view as a ‘vintage’ or ‘old-fashioned’ trade, Andrew said he wanted to preserve the family business and keep it going for the next generation.
“I think people keep coming back because of our honesty, integrity and hard work,” he said. “I remember everybody’s name and I love interacting with the customers.”