Thrifty District: Shoe Repair

"shoe repair in metro" by sacasterisk, on Flickr

"shoe repair in metro" by sacasterisk, on Flickr

“Thank you for keeping me in business.

They say one of the leading indicators of hard times economically is the rise of people getting their shoes repaired. It’s a pity, really, that in flush times people don’t appreciate as much the wonderful profession that used to be known by the old-fashioned term “cobbler.” Even after being sexed up when Daniel Day-Lewis went off to Italy to learn the craft, it still doesn’t get much attention or respect.

Well, besides learning how to fix your own hems, sew your own buttons on, and darn your socks (ok, even I draw the line at the last one) the best thing you can do is find a cobbler you like and bring in your shoes regularly for a shine and a spruce-up. I had three shoes that needed some help in varying degrees of complexity – here are two happy results, and one sad one.

I went to my local go-to guy downtown, the reliable 12th & G Cleaners & Shoe Repair. With a full shoe repair facility in the back, he was able to fix the first two with relative ease. 

Pair 1: ‘Dollhouse’ Three-Strap Mary Janes. Oh so demure, with a touch of dom around the ankle. They needed some touch-up where the leather was running raw at the toes, new heel taps, and a good polish. A relatively easy job nicely done. $18.

Pair 2: ‘Crown Vintage’ Peep-Toe Platform Oxfords. I am a CV addict, these are my third pair of the cult favorite, bought at a ridiculous discount because they are missing a tiny leather strap that holds the buckle in place. He created a new strap to match the existing one, spruced up the platforms and the heels. Very well done. $18.

And now, the sob story. The death of Pair 3, my ‘Bandolino’ Boots in delicious red leather. I have a thing about red shoes, thanks to Hans Christian Andersen. But sadly these lovely boots had worn down their toes (ok, incorrect passive voice, I wore them down, I accept full responsibility, mea freaking culpa) way too badly to be repaired.

What should they have done to avoid their terrible fate (what should I have done, me, I did it)? I should’ve taken them in right away upon purchasing, before wearing them at all, and had a cobbler add taps to the tips. This would have minimized the wear and tear. You can also have taps added to heels if you tend to grind those down. Ah well, lesson learned.

In addition to my local shop, there are two shoe repair places in the city that I always hear people give props to – George’s at 16th & U, and Duke’s at 14th & V. We’re talking old school here, if you want to see shops with the crazy cobbling equipment, check them out. Though Duke is the DC institution, I’ve heard more praise for George recently. But in any event, leave your own personal recommendations in the comments. In times like these, even shoes need some love.

12th & G Cleaners and Shoe Repair
1204 G Street NW
Washington, DC 20005

George’s Shoe Repair
1603 U Street NW
Washington, DC 20009

Duke’s Shoe Repair
2000 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20009

As one of the founding editors of We Love DC, Jenn’s passions are theater and cocktails. After two decades in the city, she’s loved every quirky, mundane, elegant, rude minute of her DC life. A proud advocate for DC’s talented drinks scene, she’s judged the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s ARTINI contest, the DC Rickey Month contest, the Jefferson Hotel’s Quill Cocktail competition, and is a founding member of LUPEC DC. A graduate of Catholic University’s drama program, she toured the country as a member of National Players, and has been both an actor and a costume designer before jumping the aisle to theater criticism. Writing for We Love DC restored her happiness after a life-threatening illness, and she’s grateful to you, dear readers. Send your suggestions to jenn (at) welovedc (dot) com and follow her on Twitter.

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8 thoughts on “Thrifty District: Shoe Repair

  1. In Arlington, I had great success with Best Foot Forward Shoe Repair –

    The staff was very friendly and professional and did impressive work. A friend gave me a super-cute pair of shoes that fit perfectly except for oddly-placed/fitting peeps in the toes. Best Foot Forward was able to match the leather and “patch” the peeps to make them closed-toe shoes. I did not even know if such a thing could be done (or at least done in a non-obvious way) before going there and was really happy.

  2. I just started taking shoes to the same place at 12th and G. My friends and I were very impressed with their quick turnaround! We dropped off three pairs of shoes between us and they were all ready in 24 hours. Both pairs of my very favorite boots (yes, I have two favorite pairs of black boots) were as good as new. We also paid $18 per pair.

    Another good place is in the basement of Union Station, right next to the Metro entrance. While they don’t have the fastest turnaround time, they have always done a great job for me in the past.

  3. Rachel, I’m so glad you mentioned the quick turnaround because I completely forgot to! Both my shoes were also ready the next day from 12th & G.

    And thanks for the rec, Brittany.

  4. So Rachel, your two favorite pairs of black boots: Are they two identical pairs of your favorite style of boot? Or two different styles of black boots that you love so very much you can’t choose one to be your only favorite?

    No judgment here- black boots are awesome and if you find the perfect pair, you might as well get two so you can spread out the wear over time. ;)

  5. Hey, I have two pairs of favorite black boots too! One has short heels and the other high. And brown boots with cute ankle buckles. And red boots – oh. wait. not anymore. :(

  6. I have no love for George’s. They messed up a couple pair of my wife’s shoes and one of mine. Pretty bad work every time. I switched to Duke’s even though it’s an extra few blocks walk. Duke’s is usually late getting them done, but it’s always really nice work.

  7. Danny, I’m sad to hear that you’ve had no luck with George’s! They’ve always done a beautiful job with my shoes, although it took a month for me to get my favorite pair of boots fixed because they kept wanting to fix the heel, when what I really needed was new insoles.

    One place where I have not had a good experience is the shoe repair next to TGI Fridays on 21st and I. I took my very favorite pair of flats because the heels needed to be rebuilt, and the heels they put on were uneven and make my ankles pronate even more than they naturally do. Boo! I spent about $20 or so to ruin a perfectly beautiful pair of shoes!