Shoe repair businesses disappearing in Tulsa

Thursday, February 9th 2006, 10:23 am
By: News On 6

A few years ago there were nearly fifty shoe repair shops in Tulsa. Now the number is less than a dozen, why?

News on 6 reporter Rick Wells went looking for the answer. Terry Keylon's been fixing shoes for 34 years, 21 years in his shop at 6019 South Sheridan. He learned the business when he was 13, but it's not a young man's business anymore. "Probably the youngest person in Tulsa repairing shoes is in his mid 30's."

There just aren't places to get the training. The number of shops is dwindling too, less than a dozen in Tulsa and some of them are struggling. He has regular customers from as far away as McAlester. The business is changing too, in expensive imports, not designed to be repaired. "The way we explain it to our customers it's a disposable shoe like a Bic ink pen. You use it for all it's worth, and put it in the trash."

A quality shoe can get new soles and heels maybe ten times. A pair of mine is getting the treatment, like rebuilding an old friend. "That's exactly what we're doing, we're rebuilding your shoe." Why wouldn't you want to do that.

Repairing is not all they do. "This is just in for a shine." A shoe shine at the shoe shop. "We have regular customers that bring in a bag full of shoes every two weeks."

Terry's wife Cheryol spends almost all day everyday doing nothing else. She recommends cream polish over the wax in a can; it's better for the shoes.

I asked if you can tell alot about a person by the shoes they bring in. They just smiled; I'll take that as a big yes.