Walk into Al's Shoe Service in Mount Prospect to get a pair of shoes repaired, and you may encounter a jazz ensemble performing in the center of the store.
Larry DeAngelo, the shop's owner, has managed to combine his love for music and the flute with the craftsmanship of his shoe repair trade.
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"If we're graced by the wonderful musicians that walk through the door, and they happen to bring their instruments, away we go," says DeAngelo. "So, we perform for our customers every day. It's part of the deal here."
One recent day, jazz drummer Rusty Jones and bass player Nick Schneider arrived with their instruments. DeAngelo served a carryout pizza, and during a lunchtime break performed a few musical numbers with group.
DeAngelo keeps his flute in the store's glass front case, and whether he's playing solo or with a group of friends, he makes it a point to play music daily.
"The shoe repair, what I do here, I'm blessed with the fact that I can work, fix shoes, and play music," DeAngelo said.
DeAngelo's late father, Al, worked as a shoe maker in Chicago, and later, Franklin Park. It was there the younger DeAngelo learned his father's trade.
"I literally grew up in the shoe shop. When I was a little kid I used to sit in the back and watch my father work."
DeAngelo decided to become a shoemaker himself after his honorable discharge from the Air Force in 1974.
"That's when I made the commitment to learn my father's trade, simultaneously learning how to play the flute," DeAngelo said. "And I was fortunate enough to work with my father for about 15 years before he passed away. So, he had the ability to give me that hands-on, personalized education."
DeAngelo has the ability to take a pair of expensive, but well-worn shoes and make them as good as new. He methodically grinds, buffs polishes the shoes to complete the restoration process.
He shows the same passion for his trade as he does with his music.
"The flute playing and the artistry involved in repairing shoes go hand in hand because they both take that same type of mind set. You have to put your heart, and soul, into what you're doing. DeAngelo said. "Whether it be playing music, or fixing shoes, I put everything I've got into it."