We live in a throwaway society, and you won't hear any different from DAVE PAGE, COBBLER. In business since 1969, and in his present Fremont location for over 15 years, Page is pragmatic about the growth of made-in-China outdoor footwear, which has followed the street-shoe business: "The shoe repair trade has virtually disappeared. The trend is to more throwaway hiking boots."
So why is Page's operation, which includes eight skilled employees, going strong? The business repairs and resoles thousands of pairs of boots per year. The number of miles hiked in those boots is probably incalculable. Walk-in customers, who make up about 15 percent of his business, may not realize that Page's shop is the largest of its kind in the U.S., since it handles warranties and repairs for major retailers like REI and EMS. "This is the lug-sole capital of the world," he declares.
Locals, who feel a much more intimate connection with their boots, have returned to Page for decades. A good pair of traditionally sewn leather mountaineering boots can last for a lifetime if repaired and maintained properly. Often hand-made in Italy, for instance, they're crafted to standards no longer practicable today—and they're broken in perfectly to the fit of an individual's foot. "A lot of this stuff is irreplaceable," Page notes. At the same time, he's adjusted to the era of Kevlar and rubber and Gore-Tex, even if these newer, lighter models won't last as long.
Page explains that he came to his artisanal trade by happenstance, as a climber in the late '60s. "My rock shoes were worn out," he remembers, and sending them for repair to Colorado would take six months. So he learned the craft himself. "It was almost totally self-taught. It seemed like a niche, and the niche opened up." Today, countless soles later, his loyal outdoor-minded customers also bring in some street shoes, though Page patiently refers most of the nonboot trade elsewhere. His shop does work on Rockports (with their Vibram soles), Finn Comfort shoes (which are hand-sewn), and, of course, Birkenstocks, that favorite of the Northwest hiking set when they're on the pavement. "The two customer bases are exactly the same," Page laughs. Dave Page, Cobbler, 3509 Evanston Ave. N., 206-632-8686, www.davepagecobbler.com.