Places that Matter

Continental Shoe Repair

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Continental Shoe Repair, photo by Anna Mule
Continental Shoe Repair, photo by Anna Mule
Continental Shoe Repair, photo by Anna Mule
Decades-old shoe repair that bounded back after 9/11
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Tucked just around the corner from the busy sidewalks of Broadway is a small yellow banner that reads, “Shoe Repair and Shine.” A neon shoe on the window proclaims the main attraction: “Repairs while u wait.”

Inside, a woman who has been working downtown since 1981 stands in her stockings by the counter. Ever since an injury, she said, her shoes wear out very quickly and this store has saved her. The owner, Wilson Silva, soon hands her shoes over the counter and she walks out with new soles.

Continental Shoe Repair has been in business since 1977, and Silva says this customer is just one of the many regulars who not only bring shoes, but also conversation and friendship.

“We have steady customers. They come every day, to clean the shoe, to fix the shoe. We talk, we sit, we chat. Once in a while you see a new face, but mostly you have those loyal customers.”

Silva has been in the shoe business for decades, beginning in Brazil, where he was born. He used to sell items for shoemakers, then gradually bought shoe stores in Brazil. A savvy businessman, Silva moved to New York City and opened a shoe store on John St. in lower Manhattan. A man named Sal worked for him, but then decided to branch off and open Continental Shoe Repair on Barclay St. When Sal retired in 2006, Silva bought the store from him, and now he operates both stores.

After 9/11, the shoe business suffered and numerous businesses moved out of downtown Manhattan to make space for new residential buildings. Continental didn’t get any help besides the insurance money. Silva said he lived for two years on savings and had to let some people go to keep the doors open on John St. But now, he says, “we can’t go back. As I see it, we keep moving forward.”

 

The core of Continental is its customer service and quality work with a smile. “We stand behind our work, and if anything happens, we take care of it,” Silva says. “I put my heart into this. I love what I do. I’m not just selling to you; I’m showing that you get what you paid for. For me, it’s interesting to deal with the people. I hug my customers, and they come they hug and kiss me. By the end of the day, we’re all happy.”