In a little building located on North 19th Street in Middlesboro, a person can find one of the last shoe repair shops in the area. Chadwell’s Shoe Repair Shop has been open 62 years in the same location — an amazing feat in modern time.
Robert Chadwell took over as owner of the shop in 1974 after purchasing the business from his father, Charles Ernest Chadwell. Shining shoes as a young boy, Robert Chadwell worked for his father in the shop since he was 8 years old.
“I’ve worked longer than some people have lived,” said Robert Chadwell jokingly. “Shoe repairing is about all I know.”
“It’s a dying art,” said Robert Chadwell.
Back in the old days business was booming, according to Robert Chadwell. He said in the 30s and 40s there were about seven shoe repair shops locally. There would be days where he repaired 18 pairs of soles and heels by himself, he recalled.
Robert Chadwell would work many different hours back in those days, adding he stayed so busy that he would work on Sunday a few times just to get caught up. During that time, the store was open six days a week.
Robert Chadwell said he did the majority of the work by himself during the days in which he owned the shop. He claimed the store was too busy to take the time to teach someone the trade.
As recent as a year ago, Robert Chadwell said he was still getting eight to 10 pairs of shoes a week. Today, he gets about one to two pairs a week.
Now, the shop has limited hours, being open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Robert Chadwell said shoes today can’t be repaired without purchasing expensive machinery, which he said is the worst part of repairing shoes. He said people tend to get rid of their old shoes that could be repaired and buy new shoes that are difficult to repair.
To this day, Robert Chadwell still enjoys taking old, worn down shoes and restoring them back to life.
* Starting soon the Daily News will be publishing a series entitled “Surviving the Hard Times”
Anthony Cloud can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 606-248-1010, ext. 208.