West Dundee business marks 90 years of shoe repair
At 105 S. Second St. in West Dundee, history is tangled with the smell of leather and shoe polish.
For 90 years, the obscure, box-shaped building has housed a shoe and luggage repair business. It opened when Mary Janes and two-tone shoes for men were in style. It's been open ever since, rejecting the notion that every piece of clothing in modern society is made to be thrown away.
Vladimir Mironov, a Ukrainian immigrant, now runs the shop. For 26 years, has put new soles and heels on shoes. He has replaced purse and luggage straps and repaired leather coats and sandals. Throwaway, no. People keep what they like and repair them, he said.
"It's not hard to make a living (repairing shoes)," Mironov, said. "I have my regular customers. I use real leather. Nothing is imitation."
Summer can be slow for him. People take vacations, and they have already repaired the lightweight shoes to wear at the beach or baseball stadium. They also set aside their dress shoes for athletic shoes.
In October, though, things change. His shelves fill with ladies and men's well-worn boots and shoes and the occasional tattered baseball glove that needs to be laced again.
"Fall and winter at busy times for me," he said. "Spring is also busy."
To handle the demand for service, Mironov uses the same grinder and polishing machine he has used for decades. Nothing is high-tech in his small shop. There is no Facebook page, no internet advertising. He likes it that way.
He has a cash register, a pile of leather and a "welcome" sign on the door.
His customers like his no-frills business model too. Carpentersville resident Lisa Berdusco has been taking her shoes to Mironov for years.
"He always gives me his honest opinion. He tells me what he can fix and what he can't," Berdusco said. "With the price of new shoes, it's less expensive to come here."
Mironov is a good fit for the shop. He has been repairing and making shoes for more than 45 years, starting when he was 20 years old.
His daughter, Maria, said he started in Russia. Her father's brother, Dimitri, took over the business from Otto, the shop's namesake. Meanwhile, her father was working as a cobbler in Park Ridge.
His brother became ill, and Mironov took over the business. He doesn't know who Otto was, nor does he know his last name.
"People call me Otto now," he said.
Mironov still has his specialty customers and make shoes for them.
"He makes, by hand, orthopedic shoes for one customer," Maria said. "Not very many people still do that."
Not very many business owners work in a building that has been around for nine decades.
"I don't need a lot here. I don't need to change the name of the business," he said. "People know where I am and what I do."