Mount Prospect cobbler boosting business with crosses
Larry DeAngelo has been repairing shoes for 46 years -- including the last 16 in downtown Mount Prospect -- and he never imagined he'd have customers from across the country, and in Japan and Italy.
But it has nothing to do with shoes.
With his business rapidly declining amid the stay-at-home guidelines for COVID-19, the owner of Al's Shoe Service has reached out to customers with a new product -- handmade leather crosses, and a vegan cross necklace made out of rubber soles from Italy.
"I'd come into the store for a couple of hours each day to see if anyone was coming around but nobody was," said DeAngelo, who became a shoemaker with his father, Al, after his honorable discharge from the Air Force in 1974. "It was getting very sad.
"So my daughters, Angela and Alexandria, wanted to think of something that would boost the business and they thought of crosses I made for both of them many years ago."
The sisters remembered the crosses as a cherished childhood gift.
"Angela said, 'Dad, what if you started selling the crosses?'" DeAngelo said. "She has this Facebook page and she is also tied into the Mount Prospect Facebook. So she wrote a beautiful story and posted a picture of the cross."
That's when the responses started popping up.
"It was Tuesday of last week she posted it and the next day we had a reporter from CBS news here," DeAngelo said. "They aired a story this past Monday and things exploded. We are beyond humbled, and so shocked."
He's selling the "Cobbler Cross" for $20 plus shipping and handling.
"I'd like to start a hashtag, #CobblerCross," Angela DeAngelo said Wednesday while answering phone calls about the product. "And I'd like it to include everyone who bought the cross to display a photo of it around their neck or in general, just so we can all come together as one."
Larry DeAngelo makes the crosses with the same machine his father used to repair shoes before Larry was born.
While operating Al's Shoe Service in Mount Prospect, DeAngelo has also found time to entertain customers. He is an accomplished flutist, who often has had other musicians join him for a musical lunch break in the shop.
"I thank everyone who knows who my dad is, and I think that's why we received the response we have," Angela DeAngelo said. "He has made such an impact on so many people."
Larry DeAngelo, a Proviso East graduate, says he's so swamped with orders now "I can't see straight."
"I started making these crosses about 18 years ago in Franklin Park (where Al began the business). I just got some divine inspiration, I guess. I would give them away to my family and friends who were having difficulties."
Today, he is using soles of shoes to help people's souls.
"We've had calls from North Carolina, Florida, Kansas, Nebraska, Indiana and Michigan," he said. "Even Japan and one from Italy. It's on Facebook, Yahoo! News, YouTube. It's just exploded all over the place.
"This is all from my heart, I just want to tell everyone how appreciative and grateful I am. It's miraculous that such a thing could happen."
For more information, check out Al's Shoe Service's Facebook page.