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Shoe repair work steady in weak economy
Hector Velasquez works on shining up a pair of military boots for a customer at Marcela’s Shoe Repair deep in the heart of Manteca’s Maple Street corridor. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL/The Bulletin
Hector Velasquez vividly remembers watching his grandfather as he hammered away on boot heels and repaired leather – taking in the smell of wax and polish and that familiar dust that comes from finishing a job.
And now 25 years later, fixing shoes – the same types that his grandfather taught him about when he was much younger – has become his trade and his specialty and his skill has made him the go-to guy for those who still wear shoes that are able to be re-soled or repaired.
“We get a lot of customers in here, and a lot of loyal people – because shoes today aren’t like the ones they used to make where you could get them re-soled instead of just buying a new pair,” Velasquez said in between jobs. “We pretty much do everything down here.”
At Marcela’s Shoe Repair – located at 123 N. Maple Street just a few doors up from the Post Office – the image conjured up as you take in the racks and the machines is a testament to an era long gone by.
Inside of the glass case that serves as a makeshift posting station for a variety of women’s heels that need to be repaired, boxes of Capezio taps that have markings dating back to the 1950s are still available for those who need to get that new sound out of those old shoes.
Custom handbags perch comfortably on a shelf above the busy downtown shop, and boots made of various leather – including alligator, snake, sheep, and ostrich skin – are there for those interested to pick out.
A rack with mink oil paste and just about every possible color of shoe polish imaginable is also on display for customers looking to make sure that their footwear is as shiny as the day they brought them home.
With the wafting smell of polish and oil and the blackish stains on his apron, Velasquez patiently tags the footwear as it comes into the store – whether it’s a pair of military desert boots from Iraq worn down so badly that hole protrude from the bottom or a pump with a broken heel – and relies on his trusty old equipment to do the job he’s spent his life perfecting.
Spinning brushes and whirring wheels helps bring once dull wing tips and oxfords back to a respectable shine.  
But even though the days of sweat-shop Nikes have replaces the bespoke footwear of yesteryear, Velasquez says that business is still as steady as ever – with people wanting to make their shoes last as long as possible.
“Sometimes you get somebody who buys a pair of Birkenstocks and when they wear down, you get them resoled and they’re as good as new,” he said. “Other times you have work boots that wear down that just need new soles.
“People realize the value in that.”
Marcela’s Shoe Repair is located at 123 N. Maple Ave. The store is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. They’re closed on Sunday. For more information, call 824-4664.
To contact Jason Campbell, e-mail, or call (209) 249-3544.