Work by Hand: Soldiering on with Shoe Repair

Marcus and Barbara Woods were gracious enough to allow a peek behind the counter at their popular shoe repair shop in East Tennessee.  Row after row of work boots and dress shoes await their attention there.  A vintage machine spans the entire room, affixed with every grade of sanding and buffing tool needed to perfect  a durable sole and shined finish.  She sands, trims and glues on new soles, while he skillfully hammers and stitches all of the pieces together. Shelves are stocked with adhesives and polishes.

Because the Woods keep working after nearly 38 years, a construction worker gets a few more years out of his steel toed boots and a grandmother doesn't have to give up the worn-down pumps that match the color of her favorite dress.

An industrial-sized version of a sewing machine has stitched together many pieces of shoe leather for satisfied customers.  Hands nimbly work the machine even when they don't feel their best.  I asked Mr. Woods why he chooses to keep working past "retirement" age, after the lung cancer diagnosis a few years ago.  "If I didn't work, I'd never get out of bed," shared Woods.  He dutifully served in Vietnam, where his family is aware he was exposed to Agent Orange, now acknowledged by the US government as causing cancer and a host of other illnesses.  The oxygen machine has its place in the workshop.

Customers constantly visit for drop-offs and pick-ups, the phone rings often with inquiries, and the rows of shoes await their fresh heels and soles.  The Woods keep going because they enjoy what they do and are friends with most of their customers.  They tell me most customers are honest, with only a few bad checks written at their counter over the years. In today's throw-away consumer world,  customers can still get new heels put on their shoes for as little as $8 a pair. After years as a soldier and even a welder, Mr. Woods happily marches in to work most days at the shop.  Family members, including his late brother, have helped out during the hardest times.  Mrs. Woods earnestly added, "We just put our faith in God."

You can contact Woods Shoe Repair at 865-483-1340.

Work by Hand:  Healing Worn Soles

Tomorrow and Thursday in our Work by Hand series:
green tea lights and crafting in the USA...