Cobbler's Business Steps Up During Thrifty Times As Americans trim their budgets, some businesses are ready for thrifty activity. In St. Louis, a shoe repair shop has seen business skyrocket as the economy prompts more customers to have shoes fixed instead of buying new ones. Jeff Lipson of Cobblestone Shoe Repair is a third-generation cobbler, and he's seeing a new type of customer.
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Cobbler's Business Steps Up During Thrifty Times

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Cobbler's Business Steps Up During Thrifty Times

Cobbler's Business Steps Up During Thrifty Times

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And these hard economic times actually bring more business for some, like cobblers. Many shoe repair shops are busier than they've been in a long time. Adam Allington from member station KWMU in St. Louis found one that's prospering.

ADAM ALLINGTON: Jeff Lipson's shop, Cobblestone Shoe Repair, is a mere 15 feet of frontage in a small St. Louis plaza just across the street from a Trader Joe's grocery store and several office buildings. Lunch break, he says, is the busiest time of the day when scores of secretaries, business-types, and retirees line up to drop off their pumps, heels, and loafers.

Mr. JEFF LIPSON (Proprietor, Cobblestone Shoe Repair): Girls come in here every day, literally every day. And they'll ask me, you know that thing at the bottom of the shoe, that black thing. Can that be fixed? I say, yeah, you know, it's the most common thing that we do here, probably 30 to 50 of them a day. And they're kind of afraid to even bring the shoes in to ask me, thinking it's a silly question.

ALLINGTON: Lipson says if he can show a 21-year-old that a broken heel can be fixed, he's getting a customer for life. And in these times, getting a few more miles out of a pair of shoes you like anyway makes good economic sense.

Mr. LIPSON: Well, this shoe's probably around $120 to $150. And the repair on this job is $15.

ALLINGTON: Good as new.

Mr. LIPSON: Good as new. Better than new, actually.

ALLINGTON: Over the past six months, Lipson says the amount of business he's seen has nearly doubled, mostly because of customers like Jan Polick(ph).

Ms. JAN POLICK: There's nothing that's going to fit you like your pair of shoes that you've been wearing for a while. During previous economic times, I didn't have my shoes fixed. I just went out and got new ones.

ALLINGTON: So is the silver lining to this whole economic, fiscal, credit brouhaha the fact that Americans might embrace a bit of old-fashioned waste-not, want-not sensibility? Greg McDonald(ph) is an economist at Washington University and says while people are tightening their belts, he suspects the economy will bounce back well before consumers make long-term changes in their behavior.

Mr. GREG MCDONALD (Economist, Washington University): I think the kind of lessons that people learned from the Depression where unemployment was, you know, double digits, we're just not looking at those kind of things anymore. There's so much that's different about the U.S. economy nowadays, so I don't think we'll see those kind of hard-learned lessons.

ALLINGTON: But try telling that to Jeff Lipson. Back in his shop, he's got all the work he can handle.

Mr. LIPSON: This is where the repairs are done, like this one where we're replacing the toe. See how she's worn it down. Young women that wear the high heel spikes and the pointed toe shoes, we're seeing a lot of them. That's probably 80 percent of our work is soles and heels.

Unidentified Woman: Oh, yeah.

Mr. LIPSON: Back in business.

Unidentified Woman: Yes. Oh, wonderful.

ALLINGTON: Lipson says fixing a broken heel or worn sole usually costs around 15 or 20 dollars. Reaching down to peel the heel off of a pair of expensive Italian Ferragamos, he says it's times like these he's glad he's fixing the shoes of corporate executives rather than standing in them. For NPR News, I'm Adam Allington in St. Louis.

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