As promised, all this week we’ll be hearing from readers who took the time to write about their neighborhood. We’ve received love letters to business and cafes, stories of moving to the ‘hood, profiles of favorite Haight Street citizens, and more. Thanks to everyone who took the time to send in their hard work – we sure had fun reading them.
And remember, if you ever get the urge to write for Uppercasing, firstname.lastname@example.org is open.biz for any stories, ideas for stories, photos, questions or anything else you want to send along to us.
Without further ado, enjoy some stories from people who aren’t us. We know we will.
Today’s post (including its photos) is by Upper Haight resident Nuala, who writes about the man behind Haight Street shoe repair.
Haight Street Shoe Repair, sandwiched between stores selling Jerry Garcia t-shirts and tie-dyed onesies, is one of the few places on Haight Street whose services cater to locals and not tourists. It’s timeless, with gold lettering spelling out the store name above a plethora of dusty ballerinas, dolls, and ceramic shoes on display in the window. There is always a line out the door, and if you peek inside you’ll see the white haired cobbler Carlos handing out ticket stubs and piling boots behind the counter.
Carlos Lopez moved to San Francisco from El Salvador 15 years ago, and got a job as an apprentice to the previous owner of Haight Street Shoe Repair. When the owner died Carlos took it over, and has been there every day since, 7 days a week. At 78 years old, he has over 60 years of experience repairing shoes.
When we walked in to drop off a pair of boots that needed new soles there was already a line. One guy drove all the way from Santa Cruz to drop off a pair of woman’s shoes. “I’ve heard you’re the best in the business”, he said. Carlos shrugged off the compliment while prying the heel off one of the shoes and exposing the cavernous plastic interior. “You see?” he said to us. “They don’t even glue them down, these new shoes”. “Don’t make them like they used to” his customer responded in an attempt at solidarity.
Not everyone has the same opinion as the guy from Santa Cruz. Yelp’s reviews of Haight Street Shoe Repair reflect a wide range of customer experiences, from rants about boots being lost to essays extoling the virtues of favorite shoes given new lives. Despite the occasional negative reviews “business is good”, says Carlos, gesturing to the overflowing shelves and the line already beginning to form again behind us.
Picking up the boots a week later, Carlos recognized us and grasped our hands. “Your boots are ready!” he exclaimed, climbing a ladder behind the counter to take them down from the highest shelf. The soles were pristine, the price a little steep, but the service was excellent. “Ciao ciao!” he said as we walked out of the store, and went back to his piles of shoes.