End of an Era: Peninsula cobblers closing up shop after 40 years

SAN MATEO, Calif. (KGO) -- A pair of Peninsula cobblers, shoe repairmen, are leaving hundreds of customers frowning. Not because they're unhappy with their work, but because the brothers are closing their shop after four decades in the same San Mateo location.

They're going to retire but not before saying goodbye to their faithful customers.

"I came in to say goodbye," said Jim Ingwersen, a 30-year customer, as he shook the hand of Harry Salatian.

Brothers Harry and Robert Salatian kept the name of a previous owner when they took the small shoe repair shop on San Mateo's West 25th Avenue about 40 years ago.

The brothers are immigrants from Syria. Harry came first, then his older brother Robert. They put in 14 hour days and developed a reputation for repairing not only shoes but also ladies' purses and other leather goods.

"You get a favorite pair of shoes that you don't want to give up, and he's always been able to repair them and make them like new," said San Mateo resident and long-time customer Misa Sakaguchi.

Sakaguchi is among many who have remained loyal customers.

"They must love your work," asked ABC7's David Louie. Harry paused for a second, then replied, "(It's) my work and me, too," breaking into laughter.

They inherited and managed to maintain century-old cobbler's machinery that stitch soles and polish shoes. Sadly, there's no market to sell them with shoe repair fading as a result of waning demand as consumers switch to shoes made with synthetic material that are cheaper to replace than to repair.

Harry and Robert always used the best quality leather soles from Italy and Germany. Some rare American soles from a defunct company will become relics for a collector.

Sports figures, such as former 49er Allan Kennedy and Tom Brady's family, are customers. Also, ABC7 news anchor Kristen Sze.

"That's how I met her," said Harry. "The mother-in-law sent her over here. I dyed her wedding shoes."

Over time, four pairs of shoes have gone unclaimed even after the customers were reminded to pick them up.

If you're getting a little concerned about what could happen to these potentially orphaned shoes if the owners don't come in and claim them, Harry and Robert have some recipients in mind who will get them.
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