Not a lot of us are left, Doart Shoe Repair owner Lucia Capuano says before jumping out of her lunch to wait on yet another customer.
Capuano’s talking cobblers, not customers. A steady stream of the latter enter the 35-year-old fixture at 103 S Broadway, just south of the 100 block of W Grand Avenue, constantly interrupting her attempt to lunch.
Not to worry, time later for that as an Escondido institution, and one of the few shoe repair locations in existence around Greater Escondido, has heels to fix and soles to save.
“I’m doing well, but my boots are not doing well,” Jan Baer, a retired Escondido teacher said as she brought in a pair of boots for re-booting. “This pair of boots needs heel work. I come here on a pretty regular basis, The service is great. They’re very friendly here.”
Once more into the breach, Capuano assumed her appointed place behind the Doart counter, checking out the boot upside and down. She writes up a ticket, promising the job well done soon and Baer leaves on her merry way.
Shoe shop walkabout
So it goes. A colorful shop deserves a colorful back story ad Capuano, 63, has a bunch of them. Her father was a cobbler. Her husband, Mario Capuano, and his father, were cobblers. It’s a family tradition and passion dating back generations.
“My father and father-in-law were shoemakers who met,” Capuano said. “They introduced me to my husband. Thank God he told me everything I needed about this before he died eight years ago. We do everything here. I hope to keep going as long as possible.”
Capuano was 17 when she met Mario at her father’s Hollywood shoe repair shop. After that, the plucky couple worked together in the business since the 1970s. For years, they toiled away at Rubidoux, a suburb of Riverside. “Our shop was in the front,” Capuano said. “Our house was in the back.”
From there, the Capuanos relocated to Bonsall and later to Escondido where Doart Shoe Repair has reigned supreme in a space housing shoe repair businesses since at least the early 1960s, by Capuano’s account.
You think the shoe biz has nothing on show biz. think again. Celebrities, however quirky and random it they might be, sometimes walked right on by and into the store for more.
“Roy Rogers was in Apple Valley and got some boots repaired with us in Rubidoux,” Capuano said. “Chuck Connors was in a parade at Bonsall and had t have his boots repaired. My husband even did Cal Worthington, the car guy.”
Great celebrities to be sure, but none could reach the heights of absurdity and flamboyance brought into the shoe life by a rock and roll legend, heck, the guy who even claimed to invent rock and roll.
Little Richard came into Rubidoux,” Capuano said. “He was sweating like crazy. It wasn’t hot at all that day. My husband didn’t recognize him. I said, ‘You don’t know who this is? My God! He was so short, My husband did a shoe build-up for him and he wanted it very high.”
Meanwhile, back at the shop
Ably assisted by cobbler Esteban Orosco, Capuano takes the time to know her customers. The shoe shop has kind of a confessional feel to it. Customers bring in their beloved footwear and seem to feel the need to unburden themselves of the reasons fir the job or simply the vagaries of life.
“One lady just liked her shoes so much, she put in soles for $80, a complete bottom” more than the shoe was originally worth, while some people come in with only the top of a shoe left and re-build the rest, Capuano said.
“One woman came in whose husband had just did and we got to talking,” Capuano continued. I said my husband died, so I understood and if you need to talk. We talked for a long time.”
Long-time customers return, while new customers come in constantly, propelled by Google searches and online aids. Again, very few shoe repair stores exist across the land and when someone searches for Escondido shoe repair, Doart comes up number one.
Repairs start at $25 and up for men’s shoes, soles 445 and up. Women’s shoes start at $12, soles for $30 and heels and soles at $42 and up.
Capuano and Orosco repair items that might not come quickly to mind, like leather motorcycle seats and seat belts for old model cars. Cruisin’ Grand usually brings in some of that type of business
The store stocks a comprehensive line of laces, boots, sandals and good quality shoes, like Birkenstock, Cole Haan, Teva. popular hats line the top shelves in well designed merchandising displays
Orthopedic sales are a big item. People who have one leg shorter than the other need special footwear attention lest they tumble to the ground in lieu of walking.
Lunch now eaten at last, Capuano gets back to business behind the counter. Lingering in her path are the words she once said to Gary Warth: “I’m not going to retire. No way. This is what keeps me going.
And so she went.
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