MILL VALLEY, Calif. (KGO) -- There's a pandemic story that has a happy ending in Mill Valley. It's about a man with a function in his community, who also plays an important role, who gives. Now the community has given back.
A simple sign but a complicated story, beginning with the name outside. "Tony is the name of the guy who started the business in 1950."
So, to this day, Misak Pirinjian still answers to it. He specializes in saving comfortable shoes and, based on the thousands of them in this crowded space, the man is clearly never out of work, which only begins to explain Pirinjian's appeal.
"It is more than the quality of shoe care," said longtime customer Carol Meyers. "He is the humblest, loving, caring man. No matter what kind of problem you have, he can fix it."
In a world where we throw so much away, Tony's Shoe and Luggage Repair is the alternate reality. "The shoes look like they're coming apart, but if they're comfortable and she will wear them, I fix them," Pirinjian told us while holding a pair of dilapidated sneakers.
It's old school here. The tools speak of their experience with just a glance.
But Pirinjian's most important ones may actually be his ears. "I wear many hats. People come in to tell me bad news, good news, sad news. You listen to them."
Like a lot of other small businesses during the pandemic, Pirinjian had to close for two and a half months. He couldn't save the purses, the belts, the watches, boots, or shoes. And it seemed no one might be able to save him, with no income.
"The last thing we wanted to see him do is not survive the pandemic," explained another longtime customer, Anne Lahaderne, who asked if she could try raise money for him.
"I asked for $3,000 to stay on my feet," said Pirinjian. "She suggested $5,000 and I said OK."
What did he get? "A tsunami," confessed Pirinjian. As of Thursday morning, his GoFundMe page had climbed well past $36,000, and counting.
There is a principle involved, said Anne. "Whatever you can do to preserve your community in a time like this is worth doing."
"What can you say to justify this?" asked Pirinjian. There are no words to describe this."
A lot of small business people have suffered through this pandemic. But how often does a community embrace a man as Mill Valley has for Misak Pirinjian?
"I suppose it is all about being comfortable," he suggested.
"Can you see see the comparison between the shoes being comfortable and you?"
"Yes. Because I make it comfortable for them."
Even in the toughest of times.
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