SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – Syracuse shoe repair owner Ralph Rotella has been fixing shoes at Discount Shoe Repair since 1975. Rotella is one of the few shoe repairmen left in Syracuse, as it is an industry that is noticeably vanishing.
“I’m the only one left, not too many people left,” Rotella said. “It’s a dying trend, not too many like us left anymore. Nobody wants to get their hands dirty anymore.”
Rotella believes all shoes are fixable, no matter the damage. Nowadays, most people will throw away their damaged and worn down shoes and will just purchase a new pair. Rotella can fix any pair of footwear and believes in giving back to the community.
Rather than throwing away a broken pair of heels or ripped pair of running shoes, Rotella will fix the shoes and donate them to the Rescue Mission.
Last year Rotella patched up and donated 23,187 pairs of shoes. One of his co-workers and biggest supporters, Mary Cusano, knows the importance of giving back and what it means to the business.
“When I see people outside with shoes, how they look and stuff, I say, you know what, this is a good thing to do for them,” Cusano said. “It puts a lot of soul in our hearts to help them out.”
Rotella said on average, he repairs at least 50 pairs of shoes per week. There is no type of shoe that Rotella can’t tackle. The most common shoe repair he comes across is fixing a broken high heel and the process is very specific.
First, Rotella will hammer a nail into the bottom of the new heel for stabilization. A piece of rubber is carved out and placed onto the bottom of the sole and aligned to make a smooth bottom for comfort.
Rotella makes sure all his customers leave happy and go above and beyond what needs to be done. After the heel is repaired, he will add polish and will buffer the heel to make it look as if the pair is brand new.
There is so much more to Rotella’s craft than just repairing broken heels. Rotella mastered the art of sewing and uses a vintage Singer sewing machine to repair any rips in shoes. Rotella said the machine he uses on a daily basis is over 100 years old yet still runs beautifully.
For the past 45 years Rotella has been extremely dedicated towards combining his two passions of repairing shoes and giving back to those in need. Even though there are not many shoe repairmen left, Rotella will continue to do what makes him happy.
“I really love my job,” Rotella said. “I’ve been doing for 45 years and I’ll keep on doing it. I can stand up on my feet and my hands work we still gonna do it.”