Tigard cobbler celebrates 40 years in business
When Don Myers opened his first shoe repair business in Astoria in the 1970s, there were about 35,000 cobblers working across the country.
Today, that number is down to about 5,000, he said, and its shrinking all the time.
But while shops across the country are closing their doors, Myers sights are set on expanding.
Myers, 61, has run New Shoes Professional Shoe Recrafters in Tigard for 27 years. The shop, at 12255 S.W. Main St., has long been a staple of downtown, and Myers has gained a reputation over the years for his craftsmanship.
Today, hes busier than ever.
Myers is an early riser, getting to work before 5 a.m. most days. His workshop is lined with shoes of all shapes and sizes, each in various states of disrepair.
All of this is due by Saturday, he said, looking at the dozens of pairs of shoes lining one wall.
Bill Withers plays softly on a stereo as Myers puts the finishing touches on a pair of $1,000 ostrich-skin dress shoes.
Many of the shoes he repairs are expensive. Most of Myers customers come from industries where good shoes are a must. Heavy work boots and cowboy boots line his shelves, as well as expensive dress shoes that belong to doctors and lawyers.
This is an exciting time for us, Myers said. Ive put a lot of years to get it to this level.
Repair with pink
Most cobblers today come from generational families, but Myers hadnt ever considered the practice until he was in his 20s, a career change that came after suffering a back injury while working as a produce clerk at a local supermarket.
I found myself standing in the welfare line in Hillsboro needing food stamps, Myers said. But I couldnt get them because I owned a car and they said I had assets that I could sell before I qualified.
Myers said that as he was leaving the welfare office, he noticed a shoe repair shop across the street.
It was looking right at me, he said. I thought, Why not? Youre good with motors. Youre good with your hands.
Myers approached a Portland cobbler every day for three weeks before he agreed to take him on as an apprentice.
I havent looked back, he said. Not once.
Myers said its important for his shop to not only do good work, but be a part of the community as well.
For years, he has collected gently worn shoes for Portlands Rescue Mission. This month, Myers and other cobblers across the country are donating a portion of their proceeds to breast cancer research.
When customers turn in a pair of womens or mens shoes, they have the option to replace the heels and soles with bright pink inlays.
Called Repair with Pink, Myers will donate 10 percent of the proceeds to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
Ive had two deaths in my family from it, and it wasnt necessary, he said.
Myers said that about 48 stores across the country are participating in the inaugural event.
We want people to ask why we wear pink heels or soles, he said. We want people to remember the fight is not over.
Myers has spent the last 30 years building the companys reputation.
Last month, Myers brought home a third-place finish in the shoe repair World Championships in Jacksonville, Fla.
I sent in my entry the week it was due, but the other two winners had spent a year-and-a-half on their entries, he said. I know Ill beat them next year.
Myers dedication seems to be working his customers now come from all over the country.
I just sent back a pair of shoes to Georgia last week, he said.
Myers said eventually hed like to retire, but not anytime soon.
If I stay and things are good, then its all good, he said. But Id like to have someone know and learn what I do. Its valuable.
Myers has had a few apprentices over the years, and has plans to create how-to videos for aspiring cobblers.
I want to teach, man, he says. I really do.
Myers has dreams of franchising the business someday.
Ive got the model. Ive been doing it for years, he said. Its working.