Moving Picture: At age 87, he still repairs shoes by hand in Grayslake

  • Henry and Rich Russian work side by side at Henry's Shoe Repair in Grayslake.

    Henry and Rich Russian work side by side at Henry's Shoe Repair in Grayslake. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Henry Russian works in the window at Henry's Shoe Repair in Grayslake.

    Henry Russian works in the window at Henry's Shoe Repair in Grayslake. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Henry Russian's 87-year-old hands thread a needle to stitch a sole.

    Henry Russian's 87-year-old hands thread a needle to stitch a sole. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Most people use a machine to work on a sole, but Henry Russian insists that some work still needs to be done by hand.

    Most people use a machine to work on a sole, but Henry Russian insists that some work still needs to be done by hand. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Henry Russian, far right, served in the U.S. Army after immigrating here in 1949. At 87, he runs Henry's Shoe Repair in Grayslake with his son Rich.

    Henry Russian, far right, served in the U.S. Army after immigrating here in 1949. At 87, he runs Henry's Shoe Repair in Grayslake with his son Rich. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • At age 87, Henry Russian admits that his eyes are going, but he still works every day at Henry's Shoe Repair in Grayslake.

    At age 87, Henry Russian admits that his eyes are going, but he still works every day at Henry's Shoe Repair in Grayslake. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Shoe stretchers hang on a wall at Henry's Shoe Repair in Grayslake.

    Shoe stretchers hang on a wall at Henry's Shoe Repair in Grayslake. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • AT DAILYHERALD.COM/MORE: Why and how Henry Russian still repairs shoes at age 87, now with his son.

    AT DAILYHERALD.COM/MORE: Why and how Henry Russian still repairs shoes at age 87, now with his son. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 8/23/2015 7:18 PM

Weathered hands stitch the sole of a shoe. The shoer's hands resemble the leather he works with.

At 87 years old, Henry Russian is still working. Russian runs Henry's Shoe Repair in Grayslake with his 56-year-old son, Rich.

 

Russian came to the United States from France at age 20. In 1949, he was drafted into the U.S. Army but never saw combat.

He settled in Lake County and began working as a shoer in Waukegan, and eventually took over a shoe shop in Lake Forest.

Russian has taught his trade to his son Rich, who works with him to this day.

"Back when I was a little kid, I would say to my dad: 'These shoes are changing. You should think about finding another job; this isn't going to go on forever.' But here I am 20 years later, and I still see it's going to work," Rich Russian says.

Rich is the boss now and gets a lot of their business from a small shoe shine shop they own at the Metra station in downtown Lake Forest.

The shoes are brought to their location in Grayslake where father and son work side by side on repairs.

"I think (Henry) is still learning now," Rich said. "You never stop learning."

Rich says repairing shoes these days requires a creative mind, as the materials are mostly man-made.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Henry prefers to work with his hands. He will hand-stitch on a new sole as opposed to using a stitching machine.

"People up here look for workmanship," Henry says.

Rich believes people still come to their shoe shop because they are sentimental about their shoes.

"It's like a car. If it's comfortable, fix it. Why try to break in another pair of shoes and then you may not like them?"

Rich says he is always learning from his father by watching him.

"If I pass away, he's going to be mad," Henry says jokingly. "If I feel good, I will work up here until the day I die."

0 Comments
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.