March 13, 2014

Closing? Mike's Of Noe Valley Shoe Repair

We picked up a Twitter rumor that Mike's Shoe Repair might be closing, what with a For Rent sign in the window. We stopped by, and while the there was no sign posted, there was also no sign that the shop will return. It was closed at 4pm and the shelves were looked bare -- the only "inventory" looks to be peoples' shoes. We called and no answering machine picked up - it just rings and rings.

This shoe repair shop has been in the neighborhood in some form going back at least into the 1940s. Here's some history via the Voice eulogizing a long-time fixture in Noe Valley after her death in 2010:
The whole neighborhood is mourning the loss of one of our most beloved residents, Helen Weinschenk, who passed away on Jan. 19 at age 98. Helen and her husband Arthur moved to Noe Valley in 1949 and bought and operated a shoe repair shop called Mission Renewal, located where Ambiance is now. They lived in an apartment behind the store. Arthur died in 1964, and Helen continued on as the shop's cobbler until 1977, when she sold the business to Barry and Patti Wood, who renamed it the Wooden Heel. The shop moved to its current location on 24th Street near Castro in 1981, and the Woods sold the business in 2002. Helen worked at the Wooden Heel until retiring in 2004 at age 92.
Miguel "Mike" Arqueta has owned the shop since 2002, and while reviews are mixed at best we never had a problem.

One of the things that makes 24th St in Noe Valley a great neighbhorhood strip is that it has services you need. Or had. A hardware store couldn't pull through, movie theaters and butchers are gone from 24th St and now it looks like we're losing our cobbler. We have plenty of clothing boutiques, coffee shops, florists and kitch - just like every other trendy main drag in the City. As one person said, "at least Union Street still has shoe repair!"

It would be sad to lose a useful service in the neighborhood. Has anyone talked to Mike lately?

Update (3/14): A tip from John Downing sent us to Craigslist:

The ad reads:
"This retail store space is located on 24th Street between Castro and Noe Streets on the south side of the street. It measures approximately 800 sf. This space is currently occupied and can be made available with 30 days notice to the existing tenant.
Emphasis ours. It sounds like Mike is going to stick around until a renter is found. We'll try and found out.

[Photo: Adam Fagen]


Anonymous said...

After picking up my patent leather shoes from Mission St for Easter we would take them to Helen to have taps put on them. I loved the smell of the place, it was the end of the 1960's. I remember being only as high as the counter and watching the machine that she would use to shine shoes. Her hands were symbols of a life of work but she seemed to be just fine with that. My Noe Valley is not there anymore.....especially if the shoe repair shop goes.

Anonymous said...

While I hate to see any small business fail, I think the demise of this one was inevitable. I had nothing but problems there. But that said, 24th St. really does need a good cobbler. After a few disasters with Mike, I started going to Tip Top over on West Portal and have had nothing but wonderful service and top-notch repair from them. But I would far prefer it if those dollars were benefiting my own neighborhood.

I hope to high heaven that whoever rents this space will NOT be a financial institution of any kind, a nail salon, a medical office of any kind, a gym, or worst of all, a realtor. While these businesses certainly serve a purpose, we are being smothered and over-ridden by them on 24th St. I don't understand why they can't peacefully coexist on side streets.

As our viable businesses leave 24th St., I find myself going more and more outside Noe to do my shopping and get basic services. Just as importantly, if this trend continues, why would anyone from another neighborhood want to come here to shop?

The folks who live here are smart, presumably care about where they live, and want to see their shopping district thrive and offer the things they want to buy or use -- as well as attract people from other areas. We have neighborhood groups for almost everything. Would anyone be in favor of setting up some sort of committee to influence and monitor the types of businesses that wish to open in the neighborhood -- similar to what other communities are doing? It seems as though we need some sort of strategy to ensure the success of our shopping area.

kitchen bitch said...

As a former resident of Noe Valley I was saddened to see this news. I used the services of the shoe repair shop often enough. It is a dying art and one I think really benefits the neighborhood. There was always that favorite pair of shoes that I wasn't just quite ready to retire, a stop into Mike's and some new heels or soles and they were just like new. Every good thing must come to an end.

Anonymous said...

Not really tragic or a loss when the guy wasn't especially nice or provided especially good service.

nails doverspike said...

save the sign!

Anonymous said...

Poor quality repairs every time - I quit going there and venture outside of Noe where I live. I'd love a QUALITY shoe repair service on 24th!

Larissa Pfau said...

Mikes is still open and working. I've always actually had good service. He's fixed two of my kids buckles on their shoes and never lost anything I've taken there. Today when I took my daughters backpack in to have the zipper replaced as it broke he honestly said it wasn't worth the money since it would be too costly to replace being waterproof.

I talked to him about the rumor that he was already closed. He's definitely there and still in business. He's on a month to month lease now as the owner wants to raise the rent and he's just able to cover the current cost of the rent. This is the same as what's happening to many of the businesses in Noe Valley - landlords raising rent and then stores who only sell expensive boutique items can afford to take over.

We're losing many essential stores; i.e. the hardware store; now possibly the shoe repair. I was actually going to ask that more folks shop at Mikes to keep him in business as I'd hate for him to be out of business. Once a shoe cobbler leaves just like a hardware store it is almost impossible to have another store like these come back to the hood.

So please support your hood by shopping local and keeping our essential stores in business. Keep Mike in business.

Karen Topakian said...

I've been a very satisfied customer of Mike's shoe repair for many years.

He recently revived a much beloved pair of low boots that carry me through the city with great comfort. Another shoe repair shop declared them dead. But Mike refused to do so.

When I stopped by to pick them up, I inquired about the for rent sign in the window. He said he lost his lease and needed to move out by the end of the week, this week (March 14). he seemed so sad. As was I.

Ladies and gentlemen this is what gentrification looks like. And remember rent control does not protect commercial tenants.

murphstahoe said...

Rich people don't need shoe repairs?

What this looks like is the end of an era where people are more likely now to replace things rather than get them fixed. I don't think this applies only to the gentry.

murphstahoe said...

And to be clear - I much prefer to fix things and gave Mike plenty of business.

rachael schafer said...

I just picked up a pair of shoes from Mike and they were repaired excellently. I've always had good service from him, and will be SO SAD if we lose the shoe repair shop!

Anonymous said...

As a long time resident and devoted shopper of 24th street I have to disagree with Karen on this one. Gentrification had little to do with this. The shoe repair shop has never been the same since the Wood family sold out some 10+ years ago. They were the last neighborhood family who owned the business and really cared about customer service. Also, the reality is the buying public has fewer and fewer shoes and boots that get repaired. We live in a Toms shoe culture now with disposable, not repairable shoes.

Anonymous said...

I have been going to Mike for years and have always had great service. He's a really good guy, and I am very sad to see him go.

Sarah Rios said...

I moved into the neighborhood in 2002 and have been taking my shoes to Mike ever since. He is extremely nice, helpful, and always took care of my shoes and gave them an extra little shine with each repair. I love taking my shoes there, his quality of shoe repair tops all others. I've since moved out of the neighborhood and I still bring my shoes there, as I haven't found another shop that compares..

I'm going there right now in fact, I hope you'll join me in supporting him and other small businesses that have been in business for years.

Anonymous said...

Rich tech people don't wear leather soled shoes. Maybe a flannel shirt and hoodie store will move in