Being a cobbler is a little bit romantic, a little bit bad ass, and a LOT about wielding sharp objects. Meet the people who know: the staff of Peabody Shoe Repair.
In this post, we’re going behind the scenes of one of Nashville’s busiest cobblers. We’re also getting the inside scoop on shoe care, including:
- 3 ways to find quality shoes in the thrift store
- 3 ways to make your shoes last longer
Ready? Let’s dive in.
The staff of Peabody Shoe Repair has more than doubled in recent years. Things have– to put it simply– gotten busy.
“Since the crash of ‘08, people want better things that last longer. Especially younger people. ” Troy told me one day when I came for a visit.
He attributes the growth of public interest in repair over disposal to a slow cultural shift.
Troy is at least the third owner of the shop, after his parents. It was originally located in a storefront in Hillsboro Village on Nashville’s West side, and moved to South Nashville’s Woodbine neighborhood in 2012.
“My father bought the shoe repair shop as kind of a hobby in 1976” Troy explained. “No one in my family had ever repaired a shoe. They just opened up and learned the trade.”
Troy started working there to make extra money in the winter when his construction work was slow.
“I never left” he said, gesturing to the shop and smiling.
The current staff works mostly in the back of the shop– a dark room punctuated by bright lights and filled with whirring machines. It smells of leather and shoe polish. The sound of music drifts in and out. They gracefully dodge each other in the close quarters.
Like line cooks in your favorite restaurant, the staff makes beautiful things appear across the counter from a chaos of buzzing machinery, knives, and vats of unidentifiable liquids.
Troy teaches the staff the craft he learned. “They used to hire prisoners to do this work” he told me.
Not prisoners, this is a group of young-ish people interested in working with their hands. And up for a challenge.
“We do what a lot of other shops can’t do” said Katie Perry, the staff member who also handles social media. “We have equipment that other people don’t have. And we are willing to approach complex repair problems that some shops won’t or can’t.”
Troy explains Peabody’s unusual workflow: “We used to have one person break down the shoe, another person do the repair, someone else finish and so on. But there’s not much satisfaction for the worker in that. Now everyone works on a shoe start to finish. What would you rather do if you worked here? I’d rather do the whole shoe myself. So that’s how we do it.”
Seems like a sensible idea to me.
“It’s the least efficient way of working.” he added. “But the most fun”
I dropped off a pair of second-hand nubuck shoes for repair. And I left with a dozen eggs. Troy slings eggs on the side– they come from the chickens that live on his property outside of Nashville.
He offered me a ride home. “No thanks” I said. “ I can walk.”
“Those” he said, pointing at the Timberlands on my feet, “Those are the devil. Rubber injected soles. Made to be thrown away, not fixed.”
I faced a two mile, sidewalk-less walk in melting snow.
“Sometimes performance gear is necessary.” I said.
“Get some Danners” Troy said.
Troy and the Peabody Shoe Repair Staff were kind enough to share some trade secrets with readers of Every Day Clothes.
3 WAYS TO MAKE YOUR SHOES LAST LONGER
Red Wing leather conditioner | Pro-Tex Waterproof Spray | Saddle Soap | Boot and Shoes Brush (for dry brushing dirt and mud – this one is my favorite) | Storage Box (I keep all my shoe care things together in a box like this) | Lint Free “Flour Sack” Towels (I use these to rub in the leather conditioner – the rest I use in the kitchen 😉
Tip 1: Condition your leather goods every one to three months and especially after getting wet. Leather is just like your skin– it gets dry and cracked if you do to moisturize. Note: Saddle Soap is not a conditioner even if it says it on the package. It is a cleaner which pulls grime and oils out of the leather. The leather always needs its moisture barrier replenished after cleaning. [Note from Kelli: I like this Red Wing Conditioner. I also dust off my leather shoes and boots with a boot brush. This is my favorite boot brush because it covers a big surface area but has pointed tips that let you get into angles and tight spots on the boot]
Tip 2: Use a water proof spray at the beginning of each season Reapply after being in heavy moisture like getting caught in rain. Use a minimum of three coats. The leather will momentarily darken and then lighten again. Once it lightens you can apply your next coat. [Note from Kelli: I like the Pro Tex Spray]
Tip 3: Have Sole Guards put on your leather soled shoes. Any shoe repair shop should be able to do this inexpensively.
3 TIPS FOR THRIFTING QUALITY USED SHOES
Tip 1: Look for a leather upper and linerA lot of shoes have leather uppers but when they are coupled with leather liners (the part your barefoot or sock would touch) they flex better, wick away moisture, stretch and mold to your feet, and they stink less.
Tip 2: Look for a heel that can actually be removed and replaced. This is a hard one because companies get really tricky. You should be able to wedge a finger nail slightly between the rubber heel and the heel base. Extra points for a true leather stacked heel instead of a plastic heel base.
Tip 3: Look for Good Year Welting This is the stitching that enables an easy resole. Here’s a great resource to help you identify this type of shoe making. Shoes with molded rubber soles cannot be re-soled. Note: Hand-lasted and welted shoes can also be high quality, but aren’t so likely to be in the thrift store. If you are interested in hand-lasted shoes, read my article on Sevilla Smith’s handmade shoes (and see her beautiful Barcelona workshop) here.
Now for Your Story
I’d love to hear about your best thrift store shoe find, your tips for taking care of your shoes, or your worst “my dog ate my stilettos” story. Drop a line and share your favorite tips, tricks, and shoe stories below. XO,
Big thanks to Troy Horner, Katie Perry, Hannah Johnson, John Patterini, Grant Gustafson, and Issac Gustafson for making this happen. All photos by Kelli Shay Hix. This post contains affiliate links. When you shop via these links, you support Every Day Clothes. Thank you so much for being here!