VIDEO: The Shoe Magician's Last Act

by Louise Dewast, Sandhya Subbarao

 
After 82 years in business, Jim’s Shoe Repair store will be closing its doors in September, joining the ranks of other iconic stores, including Rizzoli Bookstore and J&R Electronics.
Started by Jim Rocco, 84, Jim’s Shoe Repair is a fourth-generation family owned and operated business.
Throughout New York, soaring rents for commercial space are forcing small businesses out as landlords prefer to extend or renew leases in favor of larger retail operations and chain stores.
“My grandfather came over from Italy and started it in 1932 and I guess he achieved the American dream – starting his own business and working it. It’s hard to keep a business running that long, especially a cobbler business, with the high rents that are being charged,” says Joe Rocco, 56.
Situated off Madison Avenue, in an area otherwise saturated by high-end retail stores, Jim’s Shoe Repair serves as an oasis to its customers who come in for a variety of services: from repairing heels, to cutting down boots and making them wider boots, putting in gussets and shoe polishing.
The eleven-foot wide store has the same finished look since 1932, when it first opened. It is flanked on one side by a column of cubicle seating, that resembles a toy train of sorts. The seating was intended to allow customers their privacy while waiting for their shoes to be repaired. A row of old-fashioned shoeshine perches with brass-fittings lines the wall opposite. The store also boasts a cash register from the 1930s that as still operational.
With a smile and a wistful expression on his face, Jim Rocco says, “We kept it that way and people love it the way it is.”
Customers are drawn to the store from throughout the city and beyond. Many stop by to sign a petition to save the historic store and preserve it for future generations.
Ginger Nestler, has been coming to the store for over 50 years. She says, “I live on the Westside and I come here with all my work – shoes, bags, luggage, everything. They do the most beautiful work you could possibly imagine. I think it will be a great loss. It really will be.”

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