Spalding’s Shoe Repair and Saddlery operates out of one of several large, old buildings in downtown Griffin, Georgia. In earlier times, a stable stood in the space behind Spalding’s and folks would tie up their horses there while shopping. When four wheels replaced four legs as the primary means of transportation in Griffin, the area now occupied by the shoe repair was added on to the building as a new car showroom.
For the past 30 years, Susie McKenzie has worked under the decorative tin ceiling of the building greeting customers, repairing shoes, fixing saddles, and selling all manner of leather goods that fill most of building’s tile floor and available wall space. Working with leather might not be in Susie’s blood, but it definitely runs in her family. Her father and grandfather were in the same line of work.
Like the building, the machines used to make the leather repairs have some age on them. They are solid, but not solid-state, and come from a time when the term “planned obsolescence” did not exist. They are elegant in their simplicity and appear to have years of service left in them. Standing in front of a large American flag hung over the hallway to the back of the store, Susie comments that fewer folks get their shoes repaired these days and that younger people don’t seem to have much interest in learning a trade that requires some skill and a willingness to get dirty. The question in Susie’s mind is, “Will anyone carry on this business after I’m gone?”
Based just on the changes I’ve seen in the footwear industry, it seems fairly safe to say that the need for shoe repair is dwindling. I’m glad Susie and others are keeping the profession alive, though. There are at least three pairs of shoes in my closet still going strong and as comfortable as ever after new heels and soles. Buying quality stuff and taking good care of it still makes sense to me.