Archive for Thursday, February 19, 2009

Lawrence’s lone cobbler sees rise in business

Glen Roussel repairs shoes this week at BKB Leather, 811 Elm St., in North Lawrence. Shop owner Bruce Barlow says business has made an upswing during the recent economic downturn.

Glen Roussel repairs shoes this week at BKB Leather, 811 Elm St., in North Lawrence. Shop owner Bruce Barlow says business has made an upswing during the recent economic downturn.

February 19, 2009

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With a small fountain in the front yard and multicolored wind chimes dangling above the porch, BKB Leather is not your average shoe repair store.

“It’s a cultural experience,” said Tiffany Francis, a Lawrence mother who recently brought in a pair of her daughter’s vintage boots to be re-heeled. “The artwork outside and the live music inside, it was fun.”

Rusty bicycles and junkyard-like oddities dot the premises of the shop, which is in a converted garage. Its walls are lined with worn chestnut loafers, crackled ginger cowboy boots and spiky mauve pumps. It smells faintly of burning incense, and the dull whirring of the polishing machines is almost calming.

It’s one of 7,000 cobbler shops still open in the U.S. — and the only one in Lawrence. Although the enterprise may seem antiquated to some, owner Bruce Barlow said business has never been better. Barlow sees a steady stream of customers, friends and fellow musicians come through the swinging screen door of his 23-year-old shop.

“The fact that we’ve been around for a number of years … word of mouth just kind of continually brings people in,” Barlow said.

Recently, though, he has noted an increase in business.

“People are looking to save money,” Barlow said. He doesn’t, however, think the economy is the only factor in the increase. “I think most of it’s due to the media blitz. Somebody picked up on the shoe industry as an option to fix (something) yourself, rather than throw it away.”

Francis, the customer, thought the recent interest may also have to do with the rise in environmental awareness.

“It’s the whole ‘go green’ re-using thing,” she said. “It’s being smart. Re-use something instead of buying it new.”

Barlow said his shop, at 811 Elm St. in North Lawrence, works on shoes costing anywhere from $10 to $800.

“If you have a unique pair (of shoes), it’s the place to go,” Francis said.

But for any pair, a trip to the cobbler rather than the shoe store could keep a little cash in your wallet.

Comments

Emily Hadley 6 years, 3 months ago

Happy to see a piece on his little shop. Worth finding, but not a place that you are likely to happen upon when you are out and about.

spankyandcranky 6 years, 3 months ago

It's not too helpful that the LJW didn't offer a telephone number or address. Glad to hear we have a cobler, though. I knew about the one downtown that was just west of Mass St. and north of where the buses park. But I believe it no longer exists.

abw2102 6 years, 3 months ago

This is great. I sometimes buy vintage shoes and sometimes just need some shoes re-soled, so I've been looking for a shoe repair place in Lawrence. I'm actually surprised that anyone would consider it unusual to repair shoes, I've done it many times. If you like a pair of shoes and the soles are worn, why wouldn't you get them fixed?

Anyway, glad I found this article.

davidsmom 6 years, 3 months ago

I've had buckles re-attached when the elastic wore out, or seams re-sewn on favorite shoes. Shoe repair shops will often work on purses, as well. Glad to hear there's at least one shoe repair shop in Lawrence.

Puff_Dragon 6 years, 3 months ago

What happened to all the previous comments?

What a 'rag'.

SusieCreamcheeze 6 years, 3 months ago

This is the second story about B K in as many months...don't ya read tha paper?

bearded_gnome 6 years, 3 months ago

okay, for the really impaired: Barlow said his shop, at 811 Elm St. in North Lawrence, works on shoes costing anywhere from $10 to $800.

gee, that looks like an address, even indicates the neighborhood! amazing. you suppose their phone number is listed? wonder how hard 811 Elm st. is to find?

sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesh!

this guy is great, he has a great dog too. his shoe work is excellent, wife and I customers for years.

outandabout 6 years, 3 months ago

Well I hope his repairs of boots have improved over the last couple of years. When you pay 60.00 dollars every six months for one pair of boots to be repaired, you just as well by new boots once a year for 120.00 save on time. We take our business to Topeka get two pairs of boots repaired for 60.00, and each boot last two years so I consider that not a waste of time nor money just quality boot repair.

shotgun 6 years, 3 months ago

Outandabout, if you must complain......please construct a sentence properly!

You go Bruce! You rock!!!

dontcallmedan 6 years, 3 months ago

outandabout--not going to Topeka: priceless!

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