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They say that it is good to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. That is especially true if this allows you to leave your own shoes to get fixed at our November Business of the Month, Andrade Shoe Repair at 320 Bleecker Street (nr. Grove St.), which for almost 25 years has been a favorite destination for all manner of shoe- and leather-related services. The only problem you’ll have when you get your shoes back will be keeping at bay everyone who will then want to walk a mile in them!
The story of Andrade Shoe Repair began almost 80 years ago, either in Greenwich Village or Quito, Ecuador — depending upon how you tell the story. One way begins with Cesar Andrade, a cobbler who opened a store named “Cosedora La España” at Quito’s La Plaza del Teatro in 1945. A little over 30 years later, his eldest son, then 20 years old, immigrated to New York City and opened his own store on 6th Avenue and 12th Street. He then set out to help his eleven siblings join him in the city. Ten of them did. The last of them, the youngest, was still in her last year of pharmaceutical studies along with her boyfriend, Ivan Cisnero, when a visa became available to her. Ivan also managed to secure one and decided to join her.
A day after their arrival in 1989, Ivan joined one of his soon-to-be brothers-in-law who, like several of his siblings, had already opened his own shoe store, and trained there for a month. He subsequently joined one of his soon-to-be sisters-in-law at her new store in midtown and worked there for a year, before deciding to open his own store not far from it. By then, Ivan was joining a family tradition whereby relatives would train other relatives and help them finance the launching of their own stores — a tradition that Ivan himself would eventually perpetuate by passing his first store on to his nephew.
The other way to tell the story would be to start with a 50 year old shoe store at 320 Bleecker Street owned by an Italian gentleman approaching retirement in 2001, when Ivan and his wife started looking for a location for a new store. The couple liked the then-quiet stretch of Bleecker where that store was located. And when Ivan saw the store, he thought, “this is the place!” And by his current estimation, he was right!
Ivan purchased the store, kept its regular customers, and soon began to attract new ones with the quality of his workmanship in all manner of leather goods repair and services. Since then, however, the business has undergone its share of vicissitudes, driven by the transformation of the neighborhood around it and of shoe culture itself. As luck would have it, Ivan bought the store right around the time when business-casual became a thing. This coincided with the sudden penetration of cheap, Chinese-made shoes into the dress shoe market. Office workers increasingly started to swap proper dress shoes for plastic-soled ones or even sneakers — footwear, at any rate, that can be replaced for less than it costs to resole it. Fortunately, other developments more than made up for the ensuing shortfall. The unexpected arrival of luxury chains like Michael Kors and Scotch and Soda started drawing more foot traffic to the street, including tourists, who were becoming a growing presence in the neighborhood (and whose vacation shoes apparently need occasional fixing).
Business was good, especially as new shoe stores started sending him customers. At its busiest, the store had five employees. Then the pandemic hit, and Bleecker Street became a ghost town.
Ivan reopened after three months, only to discover that the only other store to do so was the local pharmacy. Unlike the pharmacy, however, he was getting no customers. He came close to shutting down for good (and might have even reconsidered his decision to abandon his pharmaceutical studies). Other shops did gradually start to reopen, and, as they did, foot traffic did improve. But Ivan soon discovered that a good number of his regular customers had left town, taking their shoes along with them. Some of them left their adult children behind, occupying their otherwise empty apartments. Those children, however, tend to exclusively opt for the sort of footwear that allows them to go back and forth between fine dining at Sushi Nakazawa and 2-on-2s at the West 4th basketball courts without having to change. So there was little chance they would be needing Ivan’s services. But then, one day, something unexpected happened. A young guy dropped in hoping to get his Yeezy sneakers cleaned. Ivan had never done this sort of work before, but took on the job nonetheless. The next day, when the customer came to pick up his shoes, he was so happy with the results, that he returned later in the afternoon with eleven more pairs in need of cleaning. Word quickly spread of Ivan’s sneaker cleaning prowess within the fancy-sneaker-wearing community. He now gets at least one pair of sneakers to clean a day. It hasn’t brought business back to where it was before the pandemic; but it has helped.
These days, Andrade Shoe Repair is a one-man operation. Ivan has been trying to hire staff; but candidates have been hard to come by. Still, he is glad that business has stabilized and that he can continue plying his trade, which continues to be a great source of satisfaction. As Ivan explains,
I absolutely love owning a shoe repair business. It allows me to work with my hands and engage in a craft that I truly enjoy. Being able to repair and restore footwear gives me a sense of accomplishment in knowing that I am extending the life of a well-loved pair of shoes.
For continuing a family tradition of craftsmanship and service that traveled all the way from La Plaza del Teatro to our Greenwich Village community, we are thrilled to name Andrade Shoe Repair our November 2023 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
Here is a map of all our Businesses of the Month: