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Couple carries on age-old trade

- Gene Norman and Megan Sanford repair shoes, leather goods at Gresham shop


EDITOR’S NOTE: The Outlook prides itself on being a reflection of the surrounding community. How better to do that than to introduce you to the very people who do most of the working and playing right here in East Multnomah County. Today’s edition begins our occasional series, “Everyday People.”

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Shoe repairman Gene Norman has been working at his trade for 15 years. He and his wife, Megan Sanford, seen in the background, have operated Gresham Shoe Repair for four years.

The 1940s photo of Megan Sanford’s grandfather working in a Seattle cobble shop hearkens to the golden days of an age-old trade.

Decades later, Sanford keeps the picture nearby, carrying on the family trade at Gresham Shoe Repair with her husband, Gene Norman.

Despite working in an evaporating industry with an increasing demand for service, the two love running their shop and hope to continue with the trade.

“We have customers who are 90 who have been coming here for 70 years,” Norman said. “We want to stick with this trade as long as we can until it becomes impossible.”

The oldest records for Gresham Shoe Repair date to 1910. With the shop’s longevity and nearby stores closing, Norman said the couple keeps plenty busy.

According to the Shoe Service Institute of America, two to five repair shops close every week. In their last four years running Gresham Shoe Repair, Sanford and Norman said they’ve seen about six shops in the area close their doors.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - As other shoe stores close, Gresham Shoe Repair becomes busier, with customers coming from as far away as Hood River.

As a result, the pair sees customers from not only Gresham but Sandy, Boring, Damascus, Estacada, the mountain villages and even out to The Dalles and Hood River.

The store specializes in cowboy boots, work boots, men and women’s dress shoes and Birkenstock repairs, but they work on a variety of leather projects, from purses to holsters and saddles. On Yelp, the business earns five stars, with one customer calling it “the place to go for a shoe miracle.”

Along with its storefront, Gresham Shoe Repair will feature an online store this year, allowing people to send in shoes from around the country.

Norman began in the shoe repair industry 15 years ago, working an apprenticeship for three years in Portland.

A seamstress, Sanford began delving into sewing leather after she and Norman met. They decided their skills complemented each other well in a business setting.

“I love good shoes and I’m here to protect people’s investments,” Norman said. “A good pair of shoes these days can be very, very spendy.

Added Sanford, “I love that we get to work together and be creative every day.”

Outside of running their business, Norman and Sanford have an Etsy shop, CobblersStitch, featuring handcrafted leather accessories such as wallets and belts.

They also stay busy raising two young children right in the neighborhood of their shop.

Gresham Shoe Repair is open 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday at 33 E. Powell Blvd. in Gresham. For more information, call 503-665-8800 or visit http://www.etsy.com/shop/CobblersStitch.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Shoe repairman Gene Norman grinds the sole of a dress shoe in his downtown Gresham store.




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