The Cobbler in the heart of the Taranaki town of Stratford

David Deacon has been in the shoe business for over two decades, fixing shoes, like this work boot, on an old Singer sewing machine and other tools.

VANESSA LAURIE / Stuff

David Deacon has been in the shoe business for over two decades, fixing shoes, like this work boot, on an old Singer sewing machine and other tools.

It turns out that mending shoes is as good for the heart as it is for the soles.

David Deacon runs a small shop called Scarpa’s Shoes in the heart of Stratford, Taranaki, which smells of leather and wax and has machines that have been running for over a century.

At 74, David can’t remember how long he’s been repairing and selling shoes – somewhere around 22.

He tried to pull out once, and only once, but it didn’t work. Keeping busy is important for longevity, he says.

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“When people get past 65, they don’t know what to do with themselves, then they die.”

Attached to the walls of Deacon’s shop are pictures of Skyhawks and Hercules – a reminder of his decades in the Royal New Zealand Air Force.

He ended up doing office work and “hated it, but it had to be done.”

After leaving the Air Force, he and his wife bought a fish and chip shop, but it didn’t work out, so he bought a small shoe business.

“At the time, I didn’t know anything about shoes.”

Deacon heats the back of a shoe that hurts the owner's heel.

VANESSA LAURIE / Stuff

Deacon heats the back of a shoe that hurts the owner’s heel.

The father of the man selling the business came over and showed Deacon the ropes for a few weeks, and he spent time learning at a southern shoe store.

Deacon inspects my shoes – Hush Puppies, purchased from a generic shoe store.

“They only use a thin strip of glue on those,” he says, before moving on to my colleague’s Dr. Martens — which were much more interesting to him.

He discovers that they are made in China. Many of the shoes it stocks are also made in the People’s Republic.

“There’s Chinese-made, then there’s Chinese-made,” he says, pointing to a pair of shoes still in the box.

“These are made in China to exacting American standards. It is a good quality sole.

Soles are important in the footwear industry.

Deacon's shop features gear that's over a century old.

VANESSA LAURIE / Stuff

Deacon’s shop features gear that’s over a century old.

Deacon says “all kinds of people” come to his store.

“Often just to chat. It breaks up the day. »

Like the nervous little man who walks around carrying a white sunflower in a reusable shopping bag.

“This is for you David,” he beams. “It will bring the women.”

The man, Siegfried Bauer, explains that he is a former marathon runner, although he has since “cured of this mental illness”.

He jokes with Deacon for a moment before handing out his number and a sheet detailing his fastest runs – he holds the record for running around Mount Taranaki, he says.

As he shows us the tools of his trade, Deacon reflects on why he tried to retire.

His wife died 10 years ago. She had cancer.

“After that, I came back to the store. It’s something to do, you meet people and I think I’m doing a good service.

Much of this service seems to be focused on people who fall through the gaps in the fast fashion shoe market.

A woman brings a pair of shoes. She had tried to get them fixed elsewhere, but they still hurt her heel.

Deacon takes a heat gun from it, then hits it several times with a hammer, she tries the shoe on and it feels much better.

Deacon taps the back of a new shoe to keep it from hurting a customer's heel.

VANESSA LAURIE / Stuff

Deacon taps the back of a new shoe to keep it from hurting a customer’s heel.

He does this work for free.

“I have low overhead, no staff to pay, I help keep prices low for people.”

Some of his customers are older people looking for something comfortable that will last, others with swollen feet needing to lengthen their shoes.

At one point, the store is so busy that one of its customers wonders if it has a closing sale.

Deacon just laughs.

“I don’t anticipate that anytime soon.”

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