12 Sep Doctor Jonathan Cartu Announces – Decades-Old Port Washington Shoe Shop May Not Survive…
PORT WASHINGTON, NY — Michael Shimon isn’t one to beg. So when the coronavirus forced Eagle Shoe Repair & Alterations, the Port Washington business he took over in 2016, to close for three months, he used money out of his own pocket to cover rent and expenses.
But that money is running out. Even as the economy slowly restarts after grinding to a halt, Shimon’s business, which was thriving just seven months ago, has seen sales dwindle. People aren’t going to the office anymore. They’re working from home, and thus don’t necessarily need shoes and clothes repaired as often. At the current pace of business, he could be forced to close for good before the year’s end. But before it gets to that point, Shimon is pleading with the community — he doesn’t want to launch a fundraiser to stay alive, he just wants to work, and is asking people to come in with their repairs.
“I just want customers to come back,” an emotional and exacerbated Shimon told Patch in a phone interview Friday. “And bring me more business. I would appreciate it, whatever they have.”
Shimon was born in Italy and emigrated to America from Uzbekistan. His career in the shoe repair and tailoring industry began when he was just a young boy sitting in his uncle’s workshop. He watched the shoemaker work his magic, learning the tricks of the trade. At 14, he started working as a tailor and eventually owned his own shop in Atlanta for over 20 years.
Four years ago, Shimon moved to the Port Washington area to be closer to his mother. Around the same time, John Savvakis, the longtime owner of Eagle Shoe Repair who operated the business for over 30 years, was retiring. Shimon took over and has been operating the business ever since. While he doesn’t know exactly how long the shop has been open, he estimates it has been at least a half-century.
“This has been a local business here for over 50 years,” Shimon said. “I’m the third owner.”
When Shimon took over, Savvakis said the business had been there “way before” Savvakis even took over, and that was in the mid-1980s.
“It’s been a very long time,” Shimon said.
A former tailor at the now-shuttering Neiman Marcus luxury department store chain, Shimon expanded the offerings at Eagle Shoe Repair to offer clothing alterations as well. The space was larger than a typical shoe repair shop, he said, so installed a sewing machine with only minor adjustments.
In the months and years before the coronavirus pandemic, Shimon said business was excellent.
“We’ve always been busy,” he said. “All this time, all these years, we’ve always been busy. Business was good.”
While foot traffic varied form day-to-day, as many as 12 to 20 people would seek out his services every day. But, when the coronavirus pandemic forced Gov. Andrew Cuomo to issue a statewide stay-home order, Shimon closed his doors. They remained closed for three months with no money coming in.
He tried to apply for a small business loan to help pay the bills, but was unsuccessful. He’s self-employed, not a corporation or limited liability company, and pays himself. He’s had to resort to using his own savings.
Eagle Shoe Repair finally reopened toward the end of June, but the normal flow of customers drastically dropped.
“I started working but there’s not that many customers,” he said. “Sometimes I have only 1, 2, 3 customers a day. So basically it’s almost nothing. For the business that we do, it’s kind of hard. It’s a struggle right now.”
Business has fallen as much as 80 percent, he estimated. In the weeks after opening, customers stopped by to see if he was open, often bringing with them a couple items for repair. But most were also staying at home and didn’t have much to fix.
“A lot of people, they just don’t walk as much as they used to,” Shimon said. “They can’t go places. They don’t go to work.”
Customers who do come in have to wear a mask now. Shimon puts on a mask, too, if someone walks in, and he tries to keep a safe distance from customers. After dealing with them, he makes it a point to wash his hands with soap and water.
But even with precautions, he fears people simply won’t come back like they once did. In turn, his business won’t be able to survive the pandemic.
“I depend on my customers, whatever they bring,” Shimon said. “Whatever money I make I rely on that to pay all my expenses and the rent.”
If the flow of traffic continues to be slowed to a trickle, he expects he will have to close. While he doesn’t know for certain how long he can stay afloat, he knows it’s “not going to be too long.”
“If it’s going to be like this for another two, three months, I’m probably going to have to close my business,” he said. “Probably going to have to do something else I guess.”
He’s not a “computer guy” — a friend has had to help him reach out to the community through local Facebook groups and sign him up for business directories — and it’s not easy for him to ask for help.
“In our nature, we don’t cry basically,” Shimon said with a chuckle.
But he wants the area to know: he’s open for business, and Eagle Shoe Repair fixes much more than just shoes — he offers tailoring and clothes alterations, repairs leather, and fixes various items such as luggage, hand bags and zippers.