Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Help WANTED: Buck's Shoe Repair, Valparaiso IN (PART ONE)

NOTE: This is a review of the OLD BUCK"S Shoe Repair. As of Fall 2011 new owners have taken over and the store looks great and the folks are attentive and personal...I cannot wait to have a reason to go in there again!

Help WANTED: Buck's Shoe Repair, Valparaiso IN
Sharon Angelina, Guest Blogger & commentary by Heather Curlee Novak

This one came in to me loooong but so good and painfully bad I just have to keep it intact. Enjoy PART TWO tomorrow!

It all started in fall of 2003 with the fake snakeskin boots. They were trashy, had chunky 5 inch heels, and were found in a bin at a resale shop. I couldn't pass them up. They spoke to me. What can I say, I was going through a phase, that's another story.

But after I got them home and snuck upstairs past my kids to try them on in private with my plaid mini skirt, I discovered the heel on the left boot was wobbly. I knew they were too good to be true. I immediately regretted the six bucks I had spent on them, thinking they were too cheap to be worth fixing. But I had to try. After hobbling around thinking maybe I could just walk on the tiptoe of my left foot and fake it, I decided that kind of "cheap behavior" would likely get me some even more expensive medical bills, and I decided to put them aside.

Chesterton used to have a nice shoe repair shop, which had closed just the year before. It was called Franks Shoe Repair, and no matter what you brought to Frank, and no matter what day of the week it was, he always said they'd be done next Tuesday. If you came in next Tuesday and they weren't done, he'd mutter an apology and tell you to come in next Tuesday. He did good work and was super cheap. I missed him.

So I decided to try Buck's Shoe Repair in Valparaiso. On Lincolnway, just off the square. Any Porter County resident can probably tell you where it is if you know Valpo well enough. It's been there forever. In fact, I had just read a story in the newspaper that Buck's had been a family owned business for three generations and was still going strong. So I took a ride out of town, over to Valparaiso, found some nearby off street parking, and walked into Buck's Shoe Repair with my fake snakeskin boots in a bag under my arm. (I figured they should come in as a pair for some reason. I don't know why. Like the broken one might need moral support from its mate or something.) I wasn't even sure they could be fixed. I just wanted to have an expert opinion tell me to either come back next Tuesday or take them out and shoot them.

Cute shop, I thought as the bell on the door jingled cheerfully behind me. A lady was showing a pair of Birkenstock's to a customer. I didn't know they carried those. But I was here on business, so I approached the counter, from behind which a rather stout man was talking to a customer. I was the only other person in the store besides these four herein mentioned. I stood, positioned myself in "line" and waited. The stout man, presumably the store owner from the way he spoke and bantered with this familiar customer, did not cast me so much as a glance. I noted rather quickly they weren't in any particularly urgent conversation. Just "how's the family" kind of chit chat. I shifted from foot to foot, and repositioned my boots more firmly under my arm.

"So then he says to me, he says, it doesn't matter what, I still think often of that kind of thing, and it just won't do. I says yeah, that's what happens."

The other man nodded. "Well, you can always tell, that's what they say."

I stared at the man behind the counter and coughed. Then I brought the bag out from under my arm and rustled it loudly, and scooted closer to the counter. I was now invading the space of the "customer" in front of me by several inches. Still not a word or glance from the owner, although the "customer" did shoot me a quick sideways look, confirming that I was indeed not completely invisible. "Buck," however, maintained his insistence of my non existence. He continued to converse with his buddy, Mr. Customer, with the same effort and enthusiasm you exert on relatives who sit near you at, say, a funeral, or perhaps the kind of small talk you toss out there to relieve the awkwardness of that first five minutes next to a stranger on a short airline flight. It went on like this:

"So yeah, that's about the long and short of it. But here's the thing, when you come right down to it, it's just about all there is to it, and that's what I say. Heck, my wife would agree with me."

"Well, sure, sure. You can't always tell, but if you can, well then. That's that."

"Exactly. My point exactly. And that is that, if you know what I mean. There is always that."

I began to feel my face flush with anger. And then I instantly got angry for having to get angry at this ludicrous situation. I was in a shoe repair shop, for Pete's sake. Not in a customer service line. Not at an ATM. Not even in a long line at the White Castle. I looked around with an air of obvious irony, searching the store for other customers. And for other sales people. Finding neither, I inched closer to the counter and stared a hole in the owner's head.

(ENTERTAINED? Curious about what happens next? Check out Part Two tomorrow!)

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