Son honors his father's craft
The shop is filled with antique shoe-repair equipment.
By PETER H. MILLIKEN
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- A downtown shoe repairman is dedicated to keeping his father's craft alive, even though he can only do it on a part-time basis.
Stamati Revmatas, 39, said he wanted to keep Colonial Shoe Repair, 472 E. Market St., open after his father, Dimitrios, died in 2002 "as a memory of my dad, just to see if I could do it."
The business was founded in the late 1920s or early 1930s by John Tsagaris next to the Robins Theater. It moved to a nearby downtown location in the mid-1970s and to its current rented quarters in 1997.
Dimitrios Revmatas came to Warren from Samos, Greece, in 1963, worked for Tsagaris initially, bought the shop from him in the early 1970s, and died five months before his intended retirement and return to Greece. Stamati Revmatas, also known as "Sam," now a solo practitioner in the shop, learned the craft from his father.
"I watched and learned," he said, adding that most shoe repair practitioners acquire the trade from family members or through on-the-job training.
Equipment still works
The store is filled with antique shoe-repair equipment, including a 70-year-old stitcher, patcher and sanders used by Tsagaris and Revmatas' father. "It's old and it works. You can still get parts," Revmatas said of the shop equipment. "I still use the old hammers, the old tools, the old knives."
A mid-1920s marble shoe-shine stand sits prominently in the front of the store, and a youthful photo of Revmatas' father adorns a shop wall. Even the cash register is about 50 years old. The newest fixture in the shop is a TV with no remote control.
Revmatas described his shoe repair business as "very steady," even though his posted shop hours are limited to 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturdays. "It's not a bad second income," he said.
Revmatas, whose weekday daytime job is next door at the Superior Cup Co., can also meet customers in the shoe repair shop by appointment on weekday evenings when he is catching up on work.
Revmatas, who grew up in the shoe repair business, began working in his father's shop next to the Robins Theater, where he shined shoes starting at age 6. "I grew up downtown for the most part. I was always at the shop. Downtown used to be booming," he recalled.
When he was growing up, there were at least seven shoe repair shops in Warren. Now there are only two.
"Nobody wants to do this anymore. It's tedious work. It's time-consuming. A lot of shoes are just throwaways. They're synthetic. They're not even leather," Revmatas explained.
"A lot of people won't even pay $30 or $40 for a pair of shoes," Revmatas said, noting that he charges $52.50 for full heels and soles.
However, he added: "I still get quality shoes to work on that are worth being repaired," such as classic-style Florsheim wingtips.
He also pointed to a $380 pair of boots, which he said the factory would charge about $189 to repair. "For me to redo that boot and have to make a leather heel for it, you're probably looking at $72," he said.
"You could have on a nice-looking suit. You could dress like a million bucks, but, if your shoes look like crap, people notice. People notice if your shoes aren't polished," Revmatas said.
Revmatas also works on leather coats and jackets, including motorcycle jackets and vests, installing zippers and patches on them. He also works on leather purses and does some luggage repair. One pending project in his shop was sewing up a trampoline.
"I just do work like I would want it done for me. I do the best job I can," Revmatas said, adding that his customers include downtown workers and people from Howland, Cortland and Champion.
"It's always been downtown. I'm not big on change. I'd like to keep it downtown," said Revmatas, who expanded the shop, doubling its size, after his father's death.
A graduate of Warren G. Harding High School and a member of St. Demetrios Hellenic Orthodox Church in downtown Warren, Revmatas lives with his wife, Amie, and 4-year-old daughter, Dimitria, in the house he grew up in on Butler Road Northeast. In his spare time, he enjoys bicycling.
Dimitria, who was born six days after her grandfather died, is already serving as a little apprentice in the shop. "She'll come down and help. She likes to hand me threads and hammers, and she has a little apron that she'll wear, which was actually my apron when I was little," Revmatas concluded.