Address: 1202 Glen Huntly Rd, Glen Huntly
From a chat with Ara that has been edited.
I was born in Istanbul, Turkey.
Over there, I was an orthopaedic shoemaker. I started in 1964, when I was 19.
I worked in a wholesaler, and there was a factory that made shoes for us. The factory went bankrupt, so we took over and I learnt the trade. I joined the army in 1965, came back in 1967 and went back to work.
I moved to Australia in 1980 because my wife’s parents were here. They were from Istanbul too. We developed a friendship, and her father said, “if you want a shop, this one is for you.”
“Come, paint and start.”
I started in a smaller shop and, after eight years, I moved here.
I’ve been here for 31 years now.
I enjoyed the work.
Especially with orthopaedic work, it’s very technical.
I always knew that I had this skill as a designer, and I learnt a lot at the factory.
But I focus on shoe repairs here.
I can do modifications, but the orthopaedic work finished for me in Turkey.
My passion is cooking.
When I came here, I wanted to work at a restaurant or cafe.
I cooked for my local community, Brandon Park Football Club, every Wednesday after work until last year.
When I start to cook, I relax.
I am 74, and I am working for my health. If I sit at home, I’d get my remote control. But there’s a social aspect here.
I know everyone who comes here like family.
Repairing shoes is the most important part of the business.
Keys and dry cleaning are a side service, but I fix soles, heels, zips, anything.
I am a cobbler and, as a profession, it’s hard. If you go to a shopping centre, they can’t do my job. They do a 3-4-month course, and they get a chain. If you go there, and provide a difficult job, they often can’t do it.
I do my job like art. That’s why customers are happy, and why I’ve been here 39 years. Whatever they want, I do it.
They don’t ask me how much.
I’m very honest here.
Making and repairing shoes are completely different.
When you make shoes, everything is ready. With the machinery, 1,2, 3 and it’s finished.
And – if there’s any damage – you can throw them out.
Here, you must think and be very careful when you take off soles so there’s no damage.
These are customer’s shoes.
It’s a big responsibility.
I miss making shoes at times.
With new shoes, everything is clean.
The shoes might be dirty when they arrive, but this space is spotless.
I always smile, and my hands have no scratches on them. I wash them maybe 20 times a day.
I respect the customers, that’s why.
The presentation of the shop is very important.
I have two daughters.
One is a teacher, the other is a bank manager.
They are good with their hands and can repair things, but they aren’t interested in this trade.
The younger generation are more interested in being electricians, plumbers and carpenters.
I called an electrician recently, they came for five minutes and charged $120.
You can’t do that as a shoe repairer.
I don’t know how long I will do this for.
I am on my feet all day, from 9:30am to 5pm, so I wear shoes that are expensive, comfortable, and cushiony inside
But I’ll keep working while I can.
I do this to keep active.
Written by Aron Lewin with all photos by Tatiana C C Scott.