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Business of the Month: David’s Shoe and Watch Repair, 460 Hudson Street

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Some businesses come to be so closely associated with the neighborhood they serve that their departure would register as a profound loss. This identification stems from the business’s longevity, but also from the relationship that the proprietor has cultivated with members of the local community over the years. Both factors explain the attachment that many feel toward our June Business of the Month, David’s Shoe and Watch Repair, at 460 Hudson Street (at Barrow Street). This unassuming store has been in the West Village since 1982. During the intervening decades, its proprietor has become a part of his neighbors’ lives.

Raphael Davidson (aka David) immigrated to this country from his native Uzbekistan, then part of the Soviet Union, in 1980, along with his wife (whose idea it was) and their three, of what would soon be four, children. He settled with his family in Borough Park, Brooklyn, where his wife had relatives. David spoke no English at the time. He had, however, studied engineering and, after a stint in the army, studied watch repair and worked fixing sewing machines. This experience helped him find a job at a local shoe repair store. A couple of years later, a friend invited him to join him in opening their own shop in the Village. David, who had by then learned on-the-job how to fix shoes (and communicate in English), took him up on the offer and, together, they launched the shoe and watch repair store that would ultimately bear David’s name.

Some compare a visit to David’s store to a form of time travel. For one, some of his machinery brings to mind New York’s industrial golden age. For another, both the eclectic merchandise strewn about the store and David’s easy rapport with his customers evoke a time when the Village was full of idiosyncratic, independent small businesses operated by familiar faces. David and his son, who joined the family business over twenty years ago, repair not just shoes and watches, but also clocks, jewelry, zippers, and leather goods. They’ll also copy your keys (and if David’s plan to install a barber station comes to fruition, they’ll have someone to cut your hair).

Performing these various services, David has developed a following and managed to keep his business afloat for over forty years. Former Village residents come to him from as far away as the Bronx and New Jersey with their broken items. Some customers who first visited, tagging along, as children, now do so as paying adults. During our short visit, several regulars popped in. One called out, “Long time no see! That’s how good the service is!” Another advised, “You better do a good interview, because this guy’s a legend. He’s been around a long time!”

Asked to explain the secret of his business’ longevity, David responds simply, pointing to his honesty, affordability, job quality, and punctuality. That is certainly part of the story; but there’s more to it than he lets on. Customers speak fondly of David’s familiarity with their dogs, children, and spouses. They also tell of his refusal to even charge them when a job doesn’t require much time. Some years ago, an elderly customer came in with a broken zipper. David fixed it free of charge. The lady left happy and got on a bus where, because she suffered from dementia, she became disoriented. She did not remember her destination, home address, or name. But she recalled that David had repaired her zipper for free. Someone escorted her back to the store, where David confirmed the story and, remembering her sister’s address, called the building’s super, who notified the sister, who came to assist her sibling.

David’s store has thrived at its location for decades, even though the rent has increased almost fifteen-fold during that period. His success, however, came to a screeching halt during the pandemic. He was forced to close for six months and, when he reopened, business was dead. His applications for relief funding yielded only $1,500. By the time business picked up, David had fallen $67,600 behind in rent payments, and his landlord was trying to evict him. In January, David agreed to a rent increase of 20% to ward off eviction. While he has honored the terms of the deal, however, his lease expires at the end of June; and his landlord is now demanding a 90% increase as a condition of renewal — an increase that the business cannot support.

Customers have greeted the news that David might have to shut down with alarm, setting up a GoFundMe page and a petition that quickly amassed well over a hundred signatures. Three other shoe repair stores have shut down in the neighborhood during the past few years. One more, and Villagers may just be left to roam the earth on broken heels and broken-zippered. The reason for customers’ reaction, however, runs deeper. It reflects gratitude for the care and generosity that David has shown his customers and neighbors for over four decades. 

In recognition of David’s dedication to his neighborhood, we are thrilled to name David’s Shoe and Watch Repair our June 2024 Business of the Month.

Want to help save David’s Shoe and Watch Repair? Send his landlord a note asking him to come to an agreement with David which will allow him to stay — CLICK HERE.

Check out this video about the store:

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:

2 responses to “Business of the Month: David’s Shoe and Watch Repair, 460 Hudson Street

  1. I’ve moved from the Village but I’ll never forget all that David did for me. This story says it all about David. I bought a vintage mantelpiece clock from him. He’s a gentle, honest man. He MUST be allowed to stay in our neighborhood. I’ll check out the GoFundMe page.

  2. I love David’s Shoe Repair. He has also reworked lamps for me. His sweet smile and kindness warms my heart, and he makes my shoes look shiny & new. My boyfriend privately refer to him as our shoe daddy.

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