If you have a cherished pair of shoes you have owned for a long time and are unable to part with, heels re-done three times, permanent scuff marks and the like, I have the place for you. I call this hole in the wall “The Thief”, unfairly, because the man who owns and operates this thriving business is very courteous and professional and, above all, a genius at restoring shoes, handbags and anything made of leather.
Located in the heart of Malibu, it’s where I go whenever a pair of expensive shoes has seen its day but I just can’t give it up as, unlike Sarah Jessica Parker, I don’t have that many. The money it will cost me could buy me a reasonably priced pair of average shoes (hence my unfair nickname) but I will get back my original shoes as if I had just purchased them, right out of the store.
I don’t visit him more than once year, yet he never fails to recognize me, or pretends to, despite being surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of leather goods in need of repair, owned by much more moneyed feet than mine. The not-so-secret is out, judging from the amount of work this tiny shop performs. Dropping off or picking up your soles requires patience because, invariably, there is a line, dotted with people with all sorts of requests.
Older blond lady wearing high-heeled booties and plumped lips: “Can you stretch my boots right now if I take them off? They are a bit tight” “Yes, I can but you need to leave them here 24 hours”. The concept seems foreign to her.
Round girl in riding attire holding a humongous pair of riding boots: “Can you cut the top off and still maintain the curving effect?” The question seemed odd to me until I noticed how short her legs were “Yes, I can but once I cut them you have to come in for a fitting – I need to measure your legs”. A dubious expression lingers on the girl’s face.
A trio of well-heeled characters, huddled over a pair of pumps “Can you dye them midnight blue?” “Well, can you show me the exact shade of blue you want?”
There is nothing this man can’t do if it is shoe related. And I acquired all this knowledge by recently standing in line behind a young guy who, when I approached, simply said to me: “Welcome to the third circle of hell!”. As the store is conveniently located close to Grom, my favourite gelato parlour, I was already armed with a pear and bacio cone to make my long wait sweeter.
Slowly inching along, it turns out that the young guy in front of me is the assistant to an old-time female rocker. There is a bit of discussion about whether the shoes he needs to pick up are under her name or her husband’s and some frantic typing in the computer on the part of the owner’s wife, until the owner emerges from the back and proclaims he knows exactly where the shoes are. I don’t know how he does it, in the piles and piles of shoes and boots in different state of disarray, cascading from every angle. But he re-emerges with a pair of impeccable black leather brogues, so well polished they could be the handiwork of an English butler and, next to it, a pair of platforms that could have been retrieved from Elton John’s closet. For a moment, I am left imagining this couple, he in a tailored suit and the laced up brogues and she, heavy make up, jet black hair coiffed high, towering on her stage shoes.
That image and the ice-cream made the wait worthwhile. Not to mention the pristine shoes I had left for dead a week before, now restored to their former perfection.