- Lynn Lewis
- Keeping shoes out of overflowing landfills is one of Lonnie Patrick's goals. Here, he refurbishes 20-year-old boots.
For repairs of your Scarpa hikers, Lucchese cowboy boots, Jimmy Choo heels... Birks or Clarks, Saddleback leather suitcases, your fave old motorcycle jacket, or any other leather good needing TLC, cobbler/artisan Lonnie Patrick can help.
Patrick's inspiration and on-the-job training began when he was 12, under the watchful eye of his dad, a custom boot maker and owner of two well-known shoe repair stores in Portland. Today, as a one-man-band, he wears the hats of craftsman, sales person, merchandiser, marketer, overseer of inventory and... janitor.
Besides listening to customers, he says precision, imagination and the ability to think outside the box are key. Also needed are dexterous hands, strong arms and fine hand-eye coordination. Anecdotes abound in the trade. Once, Patrick recalls, an employee set a pair of shoes on fire.
He also remembers the drag queens from Portland's Darcelle's Night Club, who brought some very exotic shoes to his parents' shop...which "opened my kid eyes."
So what motivates him? For one: bringing a beat-up product back to life. "We're a throw-away society; repairing shoes, handbags and so forth keeps them out of landfills," Patrick remarks. His rule of thumb: if you have a pair of shoes that can be repaired for less than half the cost, go for it. Landfills are inundated with shoes. Each year, of some 20 billion pairs produced, about 300 million pairs end up there. It takes 25 to 40 years for them to decompose...up to 1,000 years for the midsole of most running shoes, according to various studies.
At the end of the day, he takes great pride in his craft...values most a customer's gratitude and smile. "My job is truly satisfying," he says. "You can make a good living working in the trades with your hands, and be your own boss, too."