Monday, August 5, 2013

Magic Shoe Repair


Back in May I went over to the Magic Shoe Repair shop on Carmine Street when a reader told me they had been evicted. The owner asked me not to share that information just yet, as he was still hoping to negotiate a new lease with the landlord. So I waited. But I guess it didn't work out. After 20 years in business, the place is gone and gutted.

That's one Carmine survivor down, and one less place for New Yorkers to get their shoes fixed.


I always liked the shop for its fascinating window filled with wristwatches. In addition to fixing shoes, Magic Shoe Repair also fixed timepieces.

The building sold or is for sale, and the cobbler and his neighbor were put out so the landlord could combine the two storefronts into one. The whole building is shrouded for renovation and the landlord has an application in with the Landmarks Preservation Commission to make the alterations.

Richard Lourie wrote about the place in the New York Times, back in 2002:

"Carmine Street is in many ways exceptional, even eccentric... It is a real Greenwich Village street, not one tarted up for tourists. This is a difference that might be defined as that between a street with shoe stores and a street with only a cobbler. The cobbler of Carmine Street is Misha or Mike, depending on which nickname you prefer, who is from Odessa, Russia's Brooklyn. A stream of émigrés from the former Soviet Union have passed through Magic Shoe Repair, shining shoes, working their way into America with a rag, polish and hungry energy. Like all Odessans, everything reminds Misha of a joke. But he transplants not only jokes from Russia, but tomatoes as well, and he becomes suddenly rapt and poetic as he describes their skin -- delicate, pale red -- the juicy plumpness within."

May 2013

When I talked to the cobbler in May, I asked him if he thought IHOP was the reason for the rents going up--as predicted by the realtor who said that Carmine "was a dumpy street. Now it's top-notch," thanks to the pancake chain. The cobbler did not agree.

"IHOP? IHOP brings the rent down," he said in a Russian accent. "Do you see the people who go in that place? I wouldn't want IHOP in my neighborhood. All those idiot fucking guys with their big idiot cars outside, hanging around. And the fucking pancakes? With the fucking maple syrup? Ach."

While he did not want IHOP in his neighborhood, the cobbler was considering the possibility of opening an IHOP franchise of his own. "Change is good," he said. Besides, he wasn't always a cobbler. He had many other jobs. Fixing shoes and clocks wasn't his dream.

"I'm open to becoming something new."

Carmine Survivors
Lost on Carmine
Carmine Street Comics


Pat said...

I hope this guy does not open another IHOP. But blinis I could go for.

Anonymous said...

Most old-timers do not care what opens up where. My grandfather lived his entire life in the LES, and used to go to McDonald's for their apple pies. To him, it was another restaurant. He also frequented Odessa, Leshko's (the original), the Cooper Square Coffee Shop, etc, etc

Anonymous said...

Or franchise Hoboken Hoof!

mch said...

This story puts me in mine of the engineered hamburger much ballyhooed in the news recently. I have no objection to, in fact am excited about, the "pure research" aspects of this hamburger (not that I'd want to eat one), but the idea that, in order to feed the whole world hamburgers at current American rates of consumption, we need to recognize that the world cannot sustain enough steer for that purpose, is to start from so many misguided assumptions about the production and distribution of food and about trade and the distribution of wealth and what matters in life that I hardly know where to begin.

So with cobblers. In a sane world, most people, by economic necessity, would get their worn shoes repaired before chucking them for a new pair. The more affluent, if they didn't reflexively value husbanding resources, would still get their worn shoes repaired because they valued the resources of craftsmanship and materials that produced the fine shoes on their feet.

There is no place for a cobbler in a throw-away world reduced to the alternatives of Walmart and Blahnik, of the 99% and 1%.

Pat said...

Huxley foresaw this in "Brave New World", "ending is better than mending."

Anonymous said...

So where does one go in NYC to have shoes or watches repaired? Everything seems to be, well, vanishing.

laura said...

i have always bought a few pairs of really good shoes. they last over 20 yrs. the rest are less expensive, like thongs, or rubberized winter boots. when you add up throw aways, it may come to the price of one fine pair of shoes! since so much of the city is "rich" (i read this on JVNY), then where are the cobblers? are the rich throwing away the hermes? the st. laurents? the manolos? most likely they are brought to consignnment shops. this is a symbol of trashy "new money" old traditional $ repects value, & pays for up keep. @ one time the solid middle class would invest in good shoes, & yes we used cobblers. btw, watches (timepieces) have been replaced by cell phones. the wealthy (or the savers) buy a good watch. prices have more than doubled in 10yrs!

Kenny G said...

This is really sad. The guy who ran the shop appeared to be Eastern European and he could do anything. If anything I had was broken, he could fix it. The answer was always yes. I recall bringing him several clocks over the years -- he always had a solution. He knew so much about so many things...

K Buff said...

Anyone have any idea where he went? I dropped a pair of shoes off to be fixed, prepaid and went back to pick them up and the store was empty. I would really like to get my shoes back.