The sole of Main Street

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By Stephen Knapp

Few businesses anywhere survive to celebrate a 30th anniversary, much less in the same location. Evergreen Boot & Shoe Service has done both.

“We turned 30 on Oct. 10,” says Steve Repaz, the shop’s owner, sole craftsman, chief cook and bottle washer. “And I would never want to move. This location has become traditional in downtown Evergreen.”

Located on Main Street across from Creekside Cellars, Repaz’s little kingdom is, in itself, 400 square feet of tradition. For three decades, he’s fixed his neighbors’ broken straps, replaced their missing aglets and re-attached their peeling soles armed with nothing but two hands and supreme skill. It’s basic boot and shoe repair, old school.

“You can’t do this as a hobby,” Repaz says. “You have to be committed to it, and spend the time to learn the business.”

He spent that time in Littleton, apprenticed to another shoe repair expert. After earning his spurs, he chose to ply his talents in Evergreen.

“I always liked it up here, and when the opportunity came, when this space opened up, I took it. I knew I wanted to be on Main Street, and I’ve got great landlords. Ken and Judy Jeronimus have been very good to me. It’s been a good location all around.”

Six years after opening his shop, Repaz and his wife, Janice, settled in Evergreen for good. In a quiet way, they’ve become a fundamental thread in the town’s fabric.

Open the door to Evergreen Boot & Shoe Service, and you’re immediately greeted by the mingled aromas of leather and glue — a rich, warm, pleasing smell that invites you to come inside.

It’s tight quarters in the shop — between the front counter and display cases, Repaz himself does his work sequestered far to the rear. Shelves packed with leather footwear of every description line the walls.

“I also do some purses and some luggage, but I don’t do zippers.”

He doesn’t do dye work, either. In such close confines, a few days breathing toxic dye fumes could begin to affect his enjoyment of the job. And Repaz really loves what he does.

“It offers a chance to be in a business where the proof of what you do is the finished product,” he says. “It’s also enjoyable to do the work by hand, and I like to think I’m keeping up the traditions of the trade.”

A congenial fellow who enjoys his customers almost as much as his work, Repaz will recite the history of shoe repair chapter and verse with very little coaxing. A true devotee, he collects obsolete artifacts of his craft’s earlier practitioners and, of all things, pictures taken of old shoe repair shops. Some of those curio fight for space on the shop’s overburdened walls.

The art of shoe repair has changed a bit in the last 30 years. For one thing, Repaz uses tools that his predecessors could only dream of. And shoes themselves have changed.

“It offers a challenge to repair a sewn-soled shoe, and adhesives are much more important now. They used to use nails and pegs to attach soles,” he laughs, “but I haven’t been here that long.”

With any luck, though, Repaz will remain a Main Street fixture for many years to come.

“I’d like to do another 20 or 30 more years,” he says. “I think I can.”