Athens cobbler is a sole man - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Athens cobbler is a sole man

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A cobbler by trade, Dobbs Shoe Repair was purchased by his grandfather in 1945. His son, Brandt, will be the fourth generation in the Athens' shop. A cobbler by trade, Dobbs Shoe Repair was purchased by his grandfather in 1945. His son, Brandt, will be the fourth generation in the Athens' shop.
ATHENS, AL (WAFF) -

The tools of Mike Latimer's trade are sometimes loud, and always precise. A cobbler by trade, Dobbs Shoe Repair was purchased by his grandfather in 1945. His son, Brandt, will be the fourth generation in the Athens' shop.

"All of the equipment used to really do the job is very expensive, and this is going on in a business that many consider to be a dying art," said Latimer. He said there's a reason for that. "Around the late 1970's, early 80's, a lot of people started wearing tennis shoes on a regular basis as every day shoes instead of your normal loafers, and lace up dress shoes, and that type of thing, and it's just been a continual process. Plus you've got cheap shoes now that we're seeing in from other countries that can't be repaired, so it's just created a downward spiral."

In fact, there are very few left in the United States. "15 years ago, there were about 60-thousand. 15 years later, there's almost 7-thousand left." He said there are many contributing factors to so many cobblers closing up shop. "And even though you spend maybe $100 on shoes, the way the soles are done, maybe in a molded process, because a lot of times they can not be re-soled. So a lot of things have changed over the last 35 years."

Because he was one of the few left, we asked him if the demise of other stores had benefited his business, with less competition. "About 5 years ago, I was looking to getting out of the business because it got so slow, and we're reaping the benefit now, especially with western boots. Another pair on those. It's really increased that business, and during the time I was actually running the shop by myself, and we got busy enough for my son to stay. He decided to come in last year."

If business keeps growing, he said he will have to hire more people. Reaping what he sews, one stitch and sole at a time.

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