Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Man With the Golden Touch

Above, Sam DiMauro in his shop.

Women all over the world have closets full of shoes, each with different purposes and different stories behind each pair. But what happens when that pair of shoes that were a little too tight but too cute to pass up begin to give you trouble or the heels on those Manolos that you saved up forever to buy breaks?

Omaha shoe cobbler Sam DiMauro of Andy’s Shoe Repair is the man behind keeping those stilettos in tip top shape. He can diagnose a problem with and fix a shoe with only one glance of a person’s stride, and practically make any shoe fit. He brings new confidence to people with uneven leg lengths, alleviates problems due to arthritis and strokes, and even allows women to continue to wear their beloved heels in favor of orthopedic shoes.

DiMauro , a third generation shoe repairman, inherited his shop from his late father Andy who had lost a battle with cancer. Carrying on the the work ethic and values his father exemplified are vital keys to his business, DiMauro said.

In the store, the walls are graced with autographed photos from bothhe and his father’s years at the head of the shop from Miss America contestants, casts of Broadway Shows, and actresses like Ann Margaret and Marie Osmond adorned with messages like “To Andy with love, Marie. Thank you for fixing my shoe. The show loves you.” and “To the world’s greatest shoe repairman.”

With customers all over the globe from countries including Brazil, Australia, Iran, France, Iceland, Italy, Japan and Mexico, DiMauro is a bit more world-renowned than he will let on.

How can a man in a modest shop in Omaha, Nebraska be the shoe industry’s biggest kept secret? I sat down with the man himself to see how he became the respected and trusted cobbler he is today.

Who is your biggest competition? Are there any comparable names in big cities like LA or NY?

None. The reason I say I feel I don’t have any competition, it’s not being arrogant, it’s because the way I fix everything is from the heart, it’s what I enjoy doing. If I could just put a donation basket out front, I would do it for free.

What is the driving force behind your passion for your craft?

People who take good care of their shoes and buy nice shoes have a better sense of pride in themselves, and I feel honored to be a part of that. When you are at a place for twelve hours and you think ‘I’ve only been here for 12 hours?’, that’s when you know you enjoy what you do.

A "Before" picture of Troc employee Jamie's shoes we took to Sam, including (practically destroyed black boots complete with damaged soles and ripped leather).

The "After" picture of the restored boots and pink booties with replaced heel caps and added Met bar.

What’s more important- the shoe or the shoe repairman?

The shoe repairman, because we can make that shoe better.

What kind of volume does Andy’s bring in?

On average we bring in over 100 customers and between 200 and 300 items from all over the word in a given week.

How and where do you get most of your clients?

My customers are the greatest because they do all the work for me. Word of mouth; it’s fantastic! A customer of mine met a man in Tokyo that couldn’t get his cowboy boots fixed anywhere in Japan, so he gave him my card and the guy ended up shipping his shoes to me. Sometimes a person will come in for something simple like a shoe polish and then it turns out we can do more diagnosing than their doctor can.

The met-bar seems to be a popular service in your shop. Explain to me what it is exactly and how it works.

The met bar varies in material and design based on the client’s needs. What I use it for is a numerous amount of problems people have with bad blood-flow. The met bar uplifts the back side of the metatarsal head, so it allows blood-flow to travel to all the toes and drain back to the heart and get oxygenated.

A close-up shot of a Met bar.

What are some of the problems the met bar helps?

People with a Neuropathy, which is when two muscles rub together and rub the sheeting off, start to develop a pain and as the pain gets worse, it becomes hard to take a step and put any pressure down. When we put the bar on, it allows the blood to travel. It’s the same way with gout, diabetes and hammertoes.

Can you really make any shoe fit?

We will try to fix any problem. Some women will buy a shoe that’s a size 6 and they’re a size 8, and it was just a cute shoe they wanted to make work, and we have to make that shoe work for them. I just had a girl in who brought a pair of boots in and said they were too tight around the calf. She’d already had someone stretch them for a month and they couldn’t get anything. She said she needed an inch or two. In two days I stretched them an inch and a half. When she came in to try them on it turned out she needed three more inches, so we decided to put a dart in them with elastic material.

Any celebrity clients?

Let’s see, we’ve had Ann Margaret, Manheim Steamroller, Kiss and the rock band 311, they gave me a one of a kind authentic autographed photo. When they gave it to me, they said ‘Don’t let anybody photocopy this!’ There are a lot of other actors and actresses we’ve done work for that I can’t even remember. You just kind of forget.

Tell me more about the shoes you did for Kiss.

It wasn’t Gene Simmons, but the Kiss member with the star on his eye [Paul Stanley]. It was just one of those spur of the moment things where a guy calls at 10:30 and says ‘this is so-and-so from Kiss’. He wanted me to rebuild his [11 inch] boots, but I only had 3-4 hours to get his boots done in time for his show. At the time, the glue we were using took 3-4 hours to dry, so all I could do is get them wedged and put new soles and heels on them.

What do you think sets you apart from other shoe cobblers and repairmen?

Everyone else is about making as much profit as they can, as soon as customers walk out of that door they could care less about them; whereas, I want to see them again, because I want to fix whatever else they need. I feel like I’ve been given a little gift of God to just look at someone walking and am able to tell what I can do with that [shoe] to make them feel better.


Andy’s Shoe Repair

4954 Grover Street
Omaha, NE 68106-4526
(402) 558-1030

1 comment:

jamie clare said...

Thanks for commenting on the deplorable condition of my over the knee boots. :P

I can't believe how much better they looked afterward!