Toronto cobbler struggled to pay rent but now customers are returning to support him
After thirty years owning an orthotics and shoe repair business in Toronto, lockdowns, like for many businesses, nearly spelled the end for one expert orthopaedic shoe maker and repairer.
Luis, who only goes by his first name, started his business, Keewatin Fine Orthopaedic Footwear, in Uptown Toronto about 30 years ago. Proudly a third generation shoe repairer, Luis says business was good until lockdowns started in 2020. At first, he closed the shop and then, when he reopened, people were afraid to come back.
"I cannot pay the rent," Luis tells blogTO. "I have to borrow from my son, my savings is already finished."
As a senior, at 69 years old, he says he has trouble getting assistance from the government because he gets a pension. He loves his work and doesn't want to give it up.
"I'm used to work… and you know I love the people the people they are very nice with me," he says.
But business started to turn around this week thanks to a kind customer who heard about the store owner's struggles and put out the word. The message reached Uptown Yonge BIA, which posted on Facebook.
"If you have a belt or a pair of shoes to clean or fix, bring them in," the message read. "Better yet if you've always wanted a pair of shoes made from scratch for you and your weird bunions or long toes, this is the time to do it. He is an actual cobbler how cool is that!? Go in and see him. He is so lovely, a sweet man who has worked really hard his whole life. If you can, please help!"
Customers responded with praise for Luis.
"I brought my shoes to him today for repair, but Luis's real craftsman skills and passion clearly lie in his shoe and orthotic making," one customer wrote. "Such a passionate and amazing gentleman. If you need custom shoes or orthotics made (no plastic!), this is definitely the place to go."
And the call out helped — Luis started to see people return to his shop.
"Right now I'm happy because I have a few pairs to turn into work."
Luis immigrated to Toronto from Ecuador and studied shoe making in Italy, he says. Before that he learned the trade from his father and grandfather.
"My grandfather made orthopedic shoes."
Starting his shop in the Uptown neighbourhood on Keewatin wasn't easy at first.
"They were not used to seeing people from different countries," Luis says. It also took time to become proficient in English, but he quickly found friends who supported him and appreciated his skills.
"The people they help me in the beginning because I make sure the shoes I fix that they have to be very well repaired," he says.
"So this is why the people are very nice here and really I don't want to go home — I want to stay here. I want to work a little bit more."
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