YOUNGSTOWN -- Shoe and boot repair has been part of John Torquati's life for as long as he can
YOUNGSTOWN -- Shoe and boot repair has been part of John Torquati's life for as long as he can remember.
Now he's the third-generation owner of John's Boot and Shoe Repair, the business his grandfather founded here in the early 1920s.
Torquati ventured out of the shoe-repair business briefly in his early years.
He worked for a while in a warehouse at the former Cook's Department Store in Austintown while he was a student at Austintown Fitch High School and later took some businesses courses at Youngstown State University.
He always found time to help out at the repair shop, however, and eventually decided to make it his full-time occupation.
The elder John Torquati, the owner's grandfather, was an Italian immigrant who learned the shoe-repair trade before moving to the United States.
He worked in the Youngstown steel mills and served in the U.S. Navy in World War I before opening his business on Steel Street in 1921.
The shop moved to its present location on Mahoning Avenue in Youngstown's West Side in 1950.
John Torquati Sr. stayed active at the business into his 90s, performing small repair jobs, before he died in 1996 at age 102.
The founder's son, Salvatore Torquati, also took a turn running the repair shop for many years. When he retired in 1986, his son and the current owner John Torquati took the helm.
"I like the independence of being in business for myself," he said. "I like being in control of every aspect of the business."
Shoe and boot repair provide a large share of the shop's business, said Torquati, but he also provides other services.
He does alterations, zipper replacements, stitching and other repairs on luggage, purses, golf bags, leather items and orthopedic products.
His regular customers include police officers and firefighters who need uniform repairs.
"Nothing is set in stone," he said. "Every pair [of shoes and boots] is different, and you have to adapt to different jobs. You have to have the ability to adjust, and I think my greatest asset is that I have that ability."
Torquati has seen many changes in shoe designs and construction over the years.
"Shoes were once all leather," he said. "Today they're made of vinyl, plastics, urethane" and other materials.
He has many third-generation customers, as well as many out-of-town customers who stop by with repair jobs while they're visiting the area.
Key to success
A key to his shop's success, Torquati said, is his willingness to stay abreast of technology and other changes in the industry.
He also credits the business approach and philosophy established by his father and grandfather for the shop's success and continued growth.
"I was taught to do it only one way -- the right way," he said. "There's no shortcuts. I offer friendly service, quality craftsmanship and 82 years of repair knowledge. What I know was passed on to me by my grandfather and father."