Old World Cobbler of Franklin St. Keeps the Art of Repair Alive in a Throwaway Society
Since my husband and I have been married, we've gone through four washing machines. FOUR. And, don't even get me started on dishwashers.
Technology changes so quickly and even the most expensive items just seem to disintegrate. We recently purchased a new top-of-the-line SUV but I kept my 2007 Ford Edge to drive to work. It's dependable. Oil changes here and there - maybe some new tires every 50,000 miles or so - and we are good. But the new car? NO! The new car has been in the service garage more in the past year than the little Edge has been in its entire life.
Our last home came equipped with a 1990s Jenn-Air oven/stove and I fought to keep the dated appliance because I know how things are made today. Case-in-point, my vehicle. Motherboards always seem to go out and it's cheaper and faster to just get something new. Almost everything we need is made overseas with the intention that it's not made to last. The sad truth is, we live in a throwaway society...
I am the kind of person who almost never buys new clothes because I love thrift shopping. I grew up thrift shopping and continue to do so because I really enjoy finding a great deal. Plus, I'm invested in saving our planet, and thrift shopping just makes sense. Clothing and shoes make up a huge amount of landfill waste. In 2018, it was estimated that over 17 million TONS of textile waste and 300 million pairs of shoes ended up in landfills. I try to be conscious of this growing problem and not only buy used but recycle my old clothes and shoes either at the World Wide Mission Store or at the Chandler Recycle Center.
When it comes to shoes, I am really picky about how they feel on my feet. Cute cheapy shoes usually make me want to cry they hurt so bad. So, when I buy a pair of shoes - especially boots - I make sure they are good quality and super comfortable. And of course, my daughter inherited my tender feet. I recently bought her a pretty pricey pair of riding boots. She LOVED them and so when the zipper got snagged and ruined, I couldn't justify going and buying her another pair so soon. The snag warranted a trip to Franklin Street to see my favorite Old World Cobbler - Mike for a repair.
Back in my twenties, I found a vintage Louis Vuitton purse and fell in love. The only thing I didn't care for was the strap. That's when I discovered The Cobbler's Corner on Franklin St. in Evansville. He shortened the strap and resewed it with the perfect yellow threads where you couldn't tell he'd made any adjustment at all. I still use my LV to this day.
Repair & Recycle
Here at Townsquare Media, we have a weekly series called Tour de Tri-State where we feature people, places, and things that put us on the map. I've always loved the idea of "old-world" occupations. And Mike Muensterman at The Cobbler's Corner is using his old-world occupation to help combat a new world problem.
1993 Meets 2021
In the late Eighties, Mike answered an ad in the paper that would forever change his life. He started his career in repair as a shoe repair district director, although it turned out to be a bit of a nightmare. In 1993, when Mike decided he wanted to spend more time with his family, he went into the repair business for himself. He was very specific about where he wanted his storefront to be - on the west side of Franklin Street. The narrow little space wedged between ImaginationT's and American Family Insurance has been a staple of the Franklin Street buzz ever since.
When you walk into The Cobbler's Corner, it's like you step back in time. While I was picking up my boots a group of teens rode past the shop on bikes. He waved at one of the youngsters and explained that it was his nephew. I wondered if I had accidentally stepped out of Evansville and into Mayberry 2021. When I dropped off my boots, I was greeted by a pair of jovial dogs who join Mike on occasion at work. The counter is lined with projects awaiting attention and a fully-stocked candy dish. Beyond the counter, you get a peek of large vintage industrial shoe repair equipment that he purchased locally many years ago. He explained what each piece of equipment did and showed me the many projects he was working on - mostly bags and shoes.
Mike doesn't just fix shoes though. "You name it and I've fixed it: purses, belts, suitcases, jeans buttons." While I was in the shop, he also showed me a medical device that had a broken zipper and a pair of chaps. "I fix all kinds of stuff. Once, I fixed a lady's bustier. I just figure out how to fix it! Those kinds of things keep it interesting." He's even made custom pieces for clients like a Bingo bag for an avid Bingo player and fixed large items like horse tack.
He went on to tell me that the repair business isn't like it used to be. "Things today aren't made to be repaired - they are made to be replaced." I nodded because I've had my fair share of replacing things that I didn't necessarily WANT to replace. He went on to say,"So many shoe repair shops have gone out of business." Diversifying has helped him stay afloat.
My Own Opinion
My personal opinion is that quality work has something to do with it too. When I picked up my daughter's boot, I looked at the zipper. You could barely tell the zipper was different but the quality of the zipper itself was 100% better. And Mike is completely honest with his customers about their items. While I was there, a lady came in and asked him to fix a pair of shoes. He told her that the type of damage the shoe had made it almost unfixable. He was afraid she would spend quite a bit to repair the shoe but she wouldn't be happy with the outcome. She was vocal about her disappointment but understood and thanked him for his honesty.
The Cobbler's Corner is open Tuesday - Friday each week but you are wise to call him at (812) 424-1041 before coming. Mike operates The Cobbler's Corner alone and if he has to close shop for personal reasons, he wants to save you the trip. And don't bother looking them up online. In true old-world fashion, there's no Facebook page or website but you will find over 35 five-star reviews on Yelp.
Cobber of Franklin St. Keeps the Art of Repair Alive in a Throwaway Society