Today, our kids think about cobblers as perhaps cherry of peach. I tend to think of shoe repair, perhaps it’s my age. The story below ended up in my email inbox the other day and smiling happened.
Some of you will remember Klonsky’s Shoe Repair Shop or one like it just down the road from where you grew up as a child. I know I do, it might not have been named Klonsky’s but it might have been.
Ira Kaplan, hadn’t returned to the old neighborhood since he went off to fight in Vietnam.
During a business trip to New York he visits his old neighborhood on Kotler Avenue in the Bronx.
Everything has changed over the years. Where once there was Edelstein’s Delicatessen, there is now a McDonald’s; where Fleischman’s Dry Cleaning (One-Hour Martinizing) used to be, a Korean nail salon and spa now is; where Ginsberg’s Department Store was, there is now a Gap.
Nothing is the same, except for the narrow storefront of Klonsky’s Shoe Repair, which, dimly lit as ever, is still in business.
As Kaplan passes the shop, he recalls (such are the quirks of memory that he does not know how) that just before he was drafted to go off to Vietnam, he had left a pair of shoes with Mr. Klonsky that he never bothered to pick up. Could they, he wonders, possibly still be there?
A small bell tinkles as he enters the dark shop.
Mr. Klonsky, who seemed old 40 years ago, shuffles out from the back. He is hunched over, wearing a leather apron, one eye all but closed.
“Excuse me, Mr. Klonsky,” Kaplan says, “but I used to live in this neighborhood, and 40 years ago I left a pair of shoes with you for repair that I never picked up. Is there any chance you might still have them?”
Klonsky stares at him and, in his strong Eastern European accent, asks, “Vas dey black vingtips?”
“They were indeed,” Kaplan only now recalls.
“And you vanted a halv sole, mit leather heels?”
“Yes,” says Kaplan. “That’s exactly what I wanted.”
“And you vanted taps on the heels ?”
“Yes, yes,” says Kaplan. “Amazing! Do you still have them?”
Mr. Klonsky looks up at him, his good eye squinting, and says,
“Dey’ll be ready Vendsday.”