Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I Heart New York City Shoe Repair Shops

I've already told you about the joys of Uriel's, but I immediately felt bad about it because I really should have told you about St. Mark's Shoe Repair first. It's in my neighborhood, it's where I go to get all my shoes repaired, and it's absolute heaven.

First of all, it's impossibly small. Even smaller then Uriel's. You can see it here, but I'm not kidding when I tell you the photo makes it look bigger. After doing some internet research, I've come to realize that St. Marks Shoe Repair is actually famous for making custom shoes - I guess Kate Moss has a pair? - but my relationship with them is strictly repair related. It first started because I had this really perfectly fantastic pair of brown leather Kenneth Cole boots that I wore every day walking miles around the city for like two years, and needless to say I was constantly wearing the soles out.

I found St. Marks Shoe Repair when I snapped the heel of my boot off one day, leaving this horrific stagger of nails sticking out of the sole. I didn't have another pair of shoes on me, of course, because I was on foot and miles away from my apartment (although I usually don't miss owning a car, there's something to be said for always having a trunk with you at times like this, and in it shoes and shirts and purses and books and a herd of loose lip glosses rolling around).

Luckily, that fateful day I was on St. Marks Place - a familiar street. I got my tongue pierced on St. Marks in 1999 when I first moved to New York (and spent a year lisping and enraging my father), and remembered that just across the from the piercing shop was a tiny little store that sold used Converse (gross), and housed a bent man working leather in the back. I hobbled over, and Boris, the nice Belarusian man who always wears a Tam and works the front, told me they could fix my boots while I waited.

As with Uriel at Uriel's, Boris is the soul of St. Marks Shoe Repair. He has a thick Eastern European accent, chain smokes in his shop with post-Giuliani abandon, and treats even my most desperate, embarrassing, neglected, swiss cheese-soled jobs with wonderful nonchalance. This? he seems to say with his shrug, squinting through the smoke at the fist-sized hole in the heel of my boot. I have repaired holes three times this size with an awl and the tendon of a rabbit in the dark of a Minsk February night with only the light of a quarter moon to see by. Of course I can repair your tame Manhattan walking boot.

"Twenty dollars for the whole thing, come back tomorrow," is all I actually get, but it's enough. I pay, he hands me a ticket. The work is always flawless.

And as if dramatic former-Soviet fantasies aren't reason enough to go, I have now been to St. Marks Shoe Repair enough times that Boris recognizes me and waves me up to the front of the line. It's a truly proud moment, to squeeze past the ass-crack leather and NYU ponytails of the browsers to Boris, who doesn't smile, doesn't chat, just takes my shoes and gives me my ticket with an easiness made sweet by repetition, by the simple act of sharing something with someone over and over.

Photos by Jefferson Siegel


cynthia said...

I love your reports about NYC. (In fact, I evened UTubed St. Marks Place so I could take a virtual walk around your neighborhood.) The way you capture the city is the way I remember experiencing my little New Hampshire village. The shops, the shopfolk, the brief interludes, and snatches of conversations. It shows that people can create villages wherever they go.

robin said...

i love the insights into your community as well - and did you take the pics? - they are so terrific!

so, more pics with the blogs, please!

and thanks for the GTD... : )

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