Broken And Broke: Repair Shops Getting The Fix The economic downturn has people tightening their budgets and breathing new life into old possessions. Shoes, luggage and sporting equipment are getting makeovers — and repair shops are reaping the benefits.
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Broken And Broke: Repair Shops Getting The Fix

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Broken And Broke: Repair Shops Getting The Fix

Broken And Broke: Repair Shops Getting The Fix

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

The economic downturn has people breathing new life into old possessions. Shoes, luggage, sporting equipment are all getting makeovers, and repair shops are reaping the benefits.

Jasmyn Belcher now reports from Fulton, New York.

JASMYN BELCHER: Joe Cortini is leaning over a big tank of a machine that his grandfather used in the 1930s. He's stitching in a new sole on a pair of work boots that are among 30 other pairs of shoes he has to fix today.

Everywhere you look, broken, tattered shoes are piled high. The shop smells of rubber, shoe polish, and glue. Cortini Shoe Store has been operating in Fulton since 1911. And Cortini says from what he can remember, business has never been better.

Mr. JOE CORTINI (Owner, Cortini Shoe Store): Now I personally am doing about 40 hours worth of shoe repair per week. And the dollar volume on the shoe repair is probably up 25 to 30 percent.

BELCHER: And it's not just shoes. Its leather jackets, firemen's gear, hockey gloves, even luggage.

Mr. CORTINI: People are getting everything fixed. They're getting cheap shoes fixed. They're getting expensive shoes fixed. Our zipper business has just gone through the roof in the past month and a half.

BELCHER: For eight bucks Cortini will put a new heel on a dress shoe. Resoling a pair of boots might cost about $50.

It's mid-afternoon and several people are standing in line to either drop off their broken belongings or pick up their refurbished ones.

Cindy Gurney(ph) is waiting for a pair of boots for her daughter. She says it just makes financial sense to get your favorite shoes repaired.

Ms. CINDY GURNEY: I don't know, just to find a real comfortable pair of shoes. And you know, you like them and you want to keep them and keep them in good shape. You know? Like the shoes I'm wearing, they're in navy blue and they're very hard to find, a navy blue pair of shoes, you know, and I recently had, I think it was last fall I had the heels repaired on these.

BELCHER: But not all consumers are thinking frugal. Over in the shoe department of a local retail chain, Sierra Tulan(ph) tried on a new pair of tall black fashion boots. She says she'd rather replace than repair. And she's not talking cheap. She says she's pretty passionate about a certain brand of boots that generally cost about $200 a pair. But then again, she says, she has no real reason to change her spending habits.

Ms. SIERRA TULAN: I'm kind of spoiled and my dad gives me money when I need it.

BELCHER: Well, not everyone has that luxury. But Joe Cortini says he's hopeful more people will come out of this recession with a new sense of thriftiness.

Mr. CORTINI: It's almost as if we are being forced into living perhaps how we should be living. You know, when things are good we can tend to be fat and happy and just a little less careful with the dollars and cents.

BELCHER: In Cortini's shop, the pile of everyday items waiting for a second chance in life continues to grow, and so does his business.

For NPR News, I'm Jasmyn Belcher.

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