Your input is needed! Today we feature our latest Business of the Month — help us to select the next. Tell us which independent store you love in Greenwich Village, the East Village, or NoHo: click here to nominate your favorite. Want to help support small businesses? Share this post with friends.
Walking down West 10th between 6th and Greenwich Avenues, you pass Jefferson Market Garden, Jefferson Market Library and Patchin Place, making this one of the most quintessential Greenwich Village blocks. The north side of the charming block has a number of small independent shops, including a clothier, a nail salon, and even a barber. And at number 105 there is also a cobbler, from Korea by way of Los Angeles, that has owned Elite Shoe Repair since 1997. Having thrived for over two decades and survived a fire, Elite Shoe Repair is our May Business of the Month.
Proprietor Richard An is beloved by many a local who have remained steadfast customers for years. Mr. An heard from a friend that worked there previously that he should take over the business. Mr. An checked out the shop, loved the location near Patchin Place, and walked around a few blocks to check out the neighborhood. The unique character of the neighborhood, as well as the artists and writers and even movie stars, only sealed his interest in the shop. When asked what he was doing before, Mr. An noted that he was a grocer in California and lost everything in the Los Angeles riots of 1992.
Over the years many of Mr. An’s older customers have passed away, but many younger people still use his services — although he points out they often do not stay long, and keep moving or traveling or going to school elsewhere. Elite Shoe Repair has benefited from the closing of other shops and the migration of customers to him, but rather than celebrate that, Mr. An noted that fact with lament. Of course, he has retained longtime customers because of his excellent shoe and boot repair, and bags and belts are not beyond his expertise.
As one friend of the store who nominated it for Business of the Month wrote:
“In a pedestrian city like New York, a reliable shoe repair shop is a gift from heaven. Our city is overwhelmed by corporate chains and small family-owned and operated businesses are becoming few and far between. It’s wonderful to find a craftsman who clearly loves what he does, is unconstrained by ‘company policy’ and will bend over backwards to meet your repair, whether a favorite pair of shoes, purse or suitcase. If in a panic to wear a special pair of lucky shoes to a job interview, Richard has fixed them on the spot. This tiny shoe repair shop, redolent of leather and polish has been a neighborhood fixture for years, until a fire forced he and other businesses to close while their building was redone. Villagers mourned the loss of such a reliable and necessary business until, happily, Richard returned after a year. For more than 20 years, walkers from all walks of life can continue to rely on Elite Shoes to keep a spring in their step. Nice to know some things can stay the same.”
In the tiny shop, you will find a rainbow-colored assortment of shoelaces, polish of all kinds, as well as soles and other foot support bandages and items. You’ll also find a shelf of a hundred shoes already repaired and ready to be picked up. A big difference Mr. An noted from 15 years ago is that people used to bring in their shoes for repair well before they were totally worn down. Now it is more common to see a heel worn down to a nail’s thinness and a sole with the thickness of a piece of paper. Whether this is from greater mindfulness of costs or greater care of the environment and making use or things instead of constantly buying new ones, Mr. An did not say.
Mr. An says the reason for his success is that he opens and closes the shop himself and he takes care of everyone’s shoes as if they were his own. And he always finishes on a deadline; most jobs are turned around the next day, or two at the most, and he has been known to do on-the-spot emergency repairs when he can, for a critical job interview or gala party. He is also very friendly.
When I was there, Joyce Linn came in with a bag and pair of shoes for him to repair and shine. She said that once after years she brought in the pair of shoes and Mr. An knew right away whose they were.
It is that kind of care and attention to his customers in the neighborhood and beyond is why Elite Show Repair is our May Business of the Month.
What special small business would you like to see featured next? Just click here to nominate our next one. Thank you! #shoplocalnyc
And here is a handy map of all of our Businesses of the Month: