A Cobbler And His Son

Neither owner of D&D Shoe Repair at the National Press Club is a D: instead, it is run by father and son, Henry and Robert Kim. Henry is 70 years old, Robert 37. They immigrated twice, first from Seoul, South Korea to Buenos Aires, in 1976, and later to the U.S. Henry Kim ran a repair shop on Capitol Hill with his wife, Terry, but sold it after her death. D&D belongs to Robert, his father stresses. "I retired already," he says, but adds that he's helping teach his son how to run the business. And times aren't easy. People may be buying fewer pairs of new shoes, but the Kims say their repair business is falling off, too.

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    Henry Kim mans the front desk at D&D Shoe Repair inside the National Press Club building.
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    Henry Kim, 70, is a two-time immigrant from Seoul, Korea. He moved first to Buenos Aires in 1976, and then to the United States a decade later. "I retired already," he said. "I help him."
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    "Him" is Robert Kim, 37. Here, the younger Kim shapes the edges of the new sole he's just applied to a customer's shoe.
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    As part of the business, the Kims offer a variety of services, including making copies of keys, stitching up women's boots and leather bags, and of course, the ever-popular shoe shine service. Anything to make an honest buck.
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    Robert Kim says he likes D&D Shoe Repair better than the Kims' old store on Capitol Hill. There's more room, he says, and better equipment. But he does miss one thing: "I don't see famous people any more." He says Senators Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Carl Levin of Michigan were among his steady customers.
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    The Kims have repaired many thousands of shoes: in the early 1990s they opened their first store in Washington, on Capitol Hill. This one is next up.
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    Robert Kim attaching a new heel to a shoe the old-fashioned way.
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    A shoeless Wayne Brown waits in D&D's sitting area for his repairs to be complete. Brown is the director of music and opera at the National Endowment for the Arts.
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    Every element of the shoe is available for refurbishing: soles, heels, leather, the insole, laces — you name it, they'll do it.
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    Robert Kim closing out at the end of a long day. He says things are slow. Henry Kim says revenues are down 10 to 15 percent since the recession hit.

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