La Verne Shoemaker Cobbles Together Thriving Business with Quality and Strong Opinions

April 25, 2012
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La Verne shoemaker Carlos "Andy" Galvez cobbles together a thriving business with quality and by speaking his mind.

La Verne shoemaker Carlos "Andy" Galvez cobbles together a thriving business with quality and by speaking his mind.

Spend a couple of moments with cobbler Carlos “Andy” Galvez, and the Guatemalan shoemaker who lives and works in La Verne will have you in stitches.

He’s got an opinion about everything and isn’t afraid to voice it. Shoehorned into his Target Center shop plastered with signs, shoelaces, zippers, buttons, bags, purses, belts, stacks of shoes, and all the tools of his trade, including grinding, sewing, nailing and heavy duty stitching machines, you can’t blame the man for wanting to vent.

Chinese-made products particularly drew his ire on a late Tuesday afternoon.

“I would put this on the record,” he said after serving a late surge of customers. “If everybody signed and sent a petition to the people over there in Washington, and say listen, ‘We have had enough of Chinese products, stop this immediately, we are destroying our lands and our reputation is going down the drain,’ then we can start making shoes in the United States again.”

Carlos added that many cut-rate, corner-cutting shoe manufacturers today actually make shoe soles out of paper. “They just paint over it, they paint it with black coatings, neutral coatings, and make it look like it’s leather.”

Of course, Carlos doesn’t make shoes, he repairs them. If people started buying better quality shoes, like American-made Allen Edmonds shoes or Swiss-made Bally shoes, he figures more people would choose to repair their worn loafers and pumps than toss them in the dumpster.

“Why are you going to throw away a $350 pair of Allen Edmonds?” he asks. “Do you have $350 to buy a new pair? Your mortgage has to be paid, your car payment is due, your insurance is due, you have your child’s college to pay for … ridiculous.”

Like a good surgeon, which he once trained to be, he can stitch or patch together just about anything from luggage to baseball gloves to leather briefcases, and make them look better than when they first came off the retail shelf. He started in the shoe business when he was 12 and while he went to college, he said he could never get the business out of his blood.”

“It’s the family trade, he said.

His customers are glad he stayed true to the family craft.

After applying a spit shine to a pair of boots, lawyer Cedric Elias, who also owns Tony’s Beef Dip in Pomona, walked in with a pair of beat-up loafers that he wanted restored. Elias’ father-in-law was John Nabarette, who ran a successful shoe repair business in the 1950s and 1960s and taught the shoe repair trade at Chino State Prison. Once, over dinner, Elias said Nabarette asked to see a pair of shoes that he had taken to the shoemaker’s.

“Who did these for you?” Nabarette asked. “This is the best job I’ve ever seen.”

The next day Nabarette drove to La Verne to meet Carlos and befriended him.

“My father-in-law said Carlos was the best cobbler, next to him, that he ever saw,” Elias said, grinning.

Whether Carlos is shining, stretching or re-soling your shoes, he insists he uses only the highest quality products.

“Everything I use in my shop is quality,” he said. “Everything comes from Europe. My soles are Italian, my heels are Italian, the rubber on the bottom of the stiletto heels is made in Germany. I don’t carry Chinese products.”

Carlos attracts business because he’s good, and because there aren’t a lot of his kind around anymore. Now 50, he says he’ll close up shop, God willing, in another 30 years, with no expectations that his son will take over the business. 

Indeed, sometimes Carlos attracts too much business, and pays the price for it when his customers want their shoes “yesterday.”

“We take a battering,” he said. “People get really horrible. They raise hell on you, they want to kill you, they are very rude.

“Now they have these ratings on the computer. They are going to badger you, trash you, they disrespect you. When you do something nice, nobody talks about it. They should appreciate they still have a cobbler in the neighborhood.”

Carlos’ shoe shines and spit shines run between eight and $10. Or you can do it yourself. Carlos sells not only shoeshine kits, but also dyes, horse hair brushes, laces, shoe trees and other accessories.

If you don’t see them at first, rest assured they’re buried somewhere in a chest of drawers, hanging on a wall or tucked away in a storage room.

At the end of each year, Carlos donates unclaimed stock to the Goodwill, but even this act of generosity get his blood up.

“I don’t even get a deduction, he said. “My CPA already deducted the price of the sole,,the glue, the labor. There’s nothing more to deduct. I lose on everything else.”

But customers won’t lose bringing in their tired and worn out soles to Carlos. You’ll get your shoes looking like a new again and you’ll get an earful to ponder for the remainder of your day.

Enjoy a pest-free spring and summer. Call A Tovar Termite and Pest Control today in La Verne today: (909) 599-2345


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