If the shoe fits: On Main Street, a glimpse of the American Dream

Abbott's Shoe Repair
Emily Moore/THE REVIEW
Current owner Phil Abbott says shoe repair is a “dying trade.”

BY
STAFF REPORTER

Abbott’s Shoe Repair has been a fixture on Main Street since 1950.

Located next to Bloom and across from Grassroots, Abbott’s is a small shoe repair store with a vast history.

Phil Abbott runs the store, which was founded by his father, a World War II veteran. After the war, Abbott’s father worked at a shipyard and also did shoe repairs in his uncle’s basement. He opened the repair shop on Main Street—an ideal location, since its close proximity to Chrysler and General Motors meant he could fix the shoes of “the working man.”

Over the years, Abbott and his three brothers all worked at the shop. Abbott came back from the Air Force in January 1973, took a week off and, since then, has been working at the store every day, six days a week with minimal vacations.

Abbott says his favorite part of repairing shoes is the “magic” he can do with his hands.

“Every time I see a smile at the other end of the counter, that’s a paycheck,” he says.

Abbott recounts many memorable repairs. A young girl came in crying over a pair of cowboy boots that she didn’t want to part with, and seeing the look on her face after he fixed them was “priceless.”

Abbott is capable of fixing more than just shoes. When a man who was sailing in a race from Massachusetts to Florida stopped in with a huge rip down the middle of his 80-by-60-foot sail, Abbot helped him repair it.

He also uses the machinery in the back of his store to revive smaller belongings, like broken backpack straps and coat zippers.

Abbott says the hardest repair job is sewing boots back into the soles, in the original holes made by the factory. His father told him that successfully doing so is the sign of a good shoe repairman.

When Abbott chooses to retire, he says the shop will close down with him.

“From what I’ve learned throughout the years, it’s a dying trade, and it is hard to teach,” he says of the business.

He has no nearby competition, although he welcomes it.

“I will gladly see someone compete with me,” he says. “Because then I [would] cut my prices so low they wouldn’t be able to stay in business. I also have already built the clientele.”

Abbott stopped advertising twenty years ago. He primarily gets business through local students and via word of mouth from customers over the years. Customers who have moved as far as Oregon and Florida still attest to his skills and send him their shoes for a guaranteed job well done.

“What you do with your hands is more valuable than what you put in the paper,” he says.

While it isn’t a typical restaurant or shop on Main Street, Abbott’s Shoe Repair has been sustained over the years by customers from companies such as Chrysler, Gore and DuPont.

While it may not be the most frequented business on Main Street, Abbott’s Shoe Repair is a hidden gem on our campus and a testament to the American Dream. Abbott is a self-made businessman who takes pride in his skills.

“I think it is important to be true to yourself,” he says. “I’m an icon because I made myself one, and I became the best of the best.”

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