Mainstreams: Shoe mender forges a new path

30 Mar 2018

After 40 years repairing shoes, local owner beefs up retail operation

by Joni Astrup

Associate Editor

When Bob Brust started in the shoe repair business in 1978, some people told him it was a dying trade.

But 40 years later, he’s still going strong.

“It worked for me,” he said. “It’s been nothing but growth.”

He has owned and operated Shoe Menders in Elk River as a full-service repair shop since he opened four decades ago.

“Whatever came in the door, I tried to do,” he said.

That included repairing men’s and women’s footwear, fixing purses and replacing zippers on leather jackets as well as selling footwear.

But now, at age 72, Bob said the time has come for a change.

Two months ago he sold off most of his repair equipment and is beefing up his retail operation — expanding his stock of Red Wing boots and other footwear, as well as socks and shoe care products, as he transitions more to retail rather than repair work.

He said the heavy repair work was getting to be too hard. He will continue to do lighter work like cleaning, polishing, applying water and stain repellent, replacing heels on men’s and women’s shoes, repairing zippers on leather jackets and altering the leather chaps worn by motorcycle riders.

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