As the only place at the Beaches to get footwear fixed, Atkinson Shoe Repair continues helping residents put best foot forward.
The same year Neil Armstrong’s lunar boot was making mankind’s first step upon the moon, Atkinson Shoe Repair was launching its own mission to help people keep their own, more terrestrial boots (and shoes) in good working order here on Earth.
Celebrating its 50 anniversary this year, the shoe repair shop — which repairs much more than shoes — is still in the family, managed by the founder’s son, Charlie Atkinson, Jr.
“I was literally hanging around the shoe shop from sixth through eighth grades when I was going to Fletcher Junior High School,” said Atkinson. “I’d walk down to the shop after school, clean up the place. I learned all about the business from the floor up, so to speak. So, after my school days were over, I decided that being in this business wasn’t such a bad deal … and I got to stay at the beach, too.”
Atkinson took over management from his father and business founder, Charles Atkinson Sr., when his dad had to retire from the business due to health reasons in 1989.
Passing away two years later, his father would no doubt be proud his son still maintains his legacy at the Beaches, and that other members of the Atkinson family work at the shoe repair shop today.
Charlie’s older brother Glenn, who is now semi-retired and also grew up working at their father’s shop, works there part-time, while his younger brother, Mike, joined them five years ago.
Atkinson Shoe Repair opened for business in November 1969 and was originally located in a shopping center at Third Street and Ninth Street North in Jacksonville Beach (next to the Dairy Queen that is still in the same location today). The business was forced to relocate after a fire destroyed the shopping center in 1996. The repair shop closed for only nine months, reopening in its present location at 1245 S. Third St. located in Sleiman’s South Beach Plaza shopping center.
Atkinson says his shop sees about the same amount of work from women and men when it comes to shoe repair — which aren’t the only things they repair by a long shot.
“It’s amazing the different stuff that comes through this front door,” he said. “We’ve had everything from shoes and boots to orthopedic shoes, pocketbooks and purses. We do a lot of luggage work, repair belts and wallets, even have baby strollers come in sometimes. They have a lot of straps and Velcro on them for repair. If a snap come off, we can replace it. We do a little bit of everything.”
Atkinson says one of the most unique items they’ve repaired over the years was a pair of shoes they actually called “moon boots.”
“Back in the 1980s, we had a fella come in with some shoe boots, but they weren’t really boots at all…they were all plastic,” he said. “We called them ‘moon boots’ because of all the plastic…they had a platform sole and heel made in all one piece. The owner was apparently using them on stage when doing some sort of production. We replaced the soles and heels on them. It wasn’t that difficult, but it wasn’t the shape of a traditional shoe, either. It was kind of like a bowling ball, totally rounded.”
Business is booming, and Atkinson says there’s still “a lot of work out there,” especially now that his is the only shoe repair shop in operation at the Beaches.
“For a long time, there were three of us: Jim’s Shoe Repair on Atlantic Boulevard and Ponte Vedra Shoe Repair, but both are gone now,” he said. “We also hear from a lot of customers who come in and say [they’re] having a hard time finding a good shoe shop.”
Atkinson notes that many people within his industry say cobblers like himself are a dying breed.
As a result of the decline in cobblers, shops like Atkinson’s are as busy as ever. Customers are traveling longer distances to drop their items off for repair — some driving up from St. Augustine, from areas across the Intracoastal like Deerwood, Baymeadows and Orange Park — and Atkinson said he has one client who comes down once a month from Savannah.
Atkinson adds that they are also doing increasing business through their website at AtkinsonShoeRepair.com.
“I get a lot of emails from people who don’t live in this area who send me pictures and ask if we can do this or do that and what the cost is,” he said. “There are other shops around town, but we do have people who will search us out, basically because we’ve been in business so long, and also because of the quality of our repair work.”
Atkinson is especially proud of the reputation that his father and he have built in the business over the years.
The shop has earned the designation of “Authorized Repair Shop” from Vibram and Birkenstock. It is also the exclusive repair shop for many retail stores, including Carla Shoes & Accessories in Ponte Vedra Beach, Emily Benham, Rosenblum’s Clothier in South Jacksonville Beach and The Tailor Shop in Jacksonville. It also provides exclusive services for Oceanside Cleaners (Jacksonville/Ponte Vedra Beach) and Pampered Foot in St. Simons Island, Georgia.
“That’s the number one thing for me,” he said. “My dad taught me a long time ago that you never want to have to make excuses for what you charge for doing something, that you should be able to explain the cost is based on the quality of the material and the quality of the work.”
For the full article from Jacksonville.com, click here.