City of Residence: Kathleen
Occupation: Owner, Marks Shoe and Luggage Hospital
QUESTION: How did you get into repairing shoes?
ANSWER: Im fourth generation. I learned from my dad, Stan, he from his dad and on back.
QUESTION: Talking to you, it doesnt sound like you learned here.
ANSWER: No, were originally from London. We came over here in 1984. We fell in love with America and wanted to live here and ended up in Georgia. Its been very good to us.
QUESTION: In England, was there a single shop your family ran that went back generations?
ANSWER: There were multiple shops through the years depending on how many were in the family. We eventually were in East Anglia in Mildenhall where there was a U.S. base. Thats how we got to know a lot of Americans.
QUESTION: Is that what got you here?
ANSWER: We had four vacations here. The first was to visit my sister who was over on a student exchange program. She was on the West Coast, but as soon as we got off the plane we felt at home. Were heat freaks. Most people in England work all year to spend a week in Spain where its warm.
QUESTION: Did that Air Force connection bring you to Warner Robins?
ANSWER: We were visiting friends who had been at Robins Air Force Base then retired here. Wed stopped on our way to Disney World but read an ad in the Atlanta Journal about a shoe shop that had gone out of business and was for sale. We decided on the spur of the moment to buy it and move the equipment here. Wed gotten here on a Thursday and a week later had opened up shop. We were the guests who came and never left.
QUESTION: What made you want to be in the U.S.?
ANSWER: Honestly, two things. It was our contact with Americans and their general attitude that we can do that. Its that positive attitude. Then when got here and the sheer massive size of the country makes you feel you could do anything. Its very cool to feel that way, and after 29 years I dont really feel any different.
QUESTION: Were you married here or in England?
ANSWER: I met my wife here. In fact, she was passing through as well. She lived in California and was visiting her grandparents here. Her truck broke down, and she had to stay awhile to get it fixed.
QUESTION: So did you go to school to learn repair, or was it a classic apprentice situation?
ANSWER: I learned it all from my dad starting with sweeping floors as a youngster. Unfortunately, my dad passed away in 2006. My mum still works here at the shop.
QUESTION: Your shop may have moved across an ocean but still must have the same look and same smell -- leather and polish.
QUESTION: Its in my blood. I dont notice it at all unless Ive been away awhile, which is rare. Years ago we repaired far more shoes than luggage, but now its about half and half; that and backpacks, purses and other leather goods.
QUESTION: Whats your most common repair?
ANSWER: Replacing shoes heels.
QUESTION: Whats the most common question you hear?
ANSWER: Can you fix this?
QUESTION: Youre a shopkeeper, businessman and craftsman. What do you like best?
ANSWER: Im a cobbler. Running the business is part, but the paperwork bores me silly. I dont like it. Im a cobbler, a leather worker. I fix stuff for people.
QUESTION: How has cobbling changed through the years?
ANSWER: Younger people tend not to realize you can, in fact, fix stuff. People of my generation have grown up not fixing stuff because they could afford new stuff. Everything became disposable. Now kids dont even know you can fix it. In a slow economy, people start thinking again about repairing items rather than getting new. But as far as the work itself, it hasnt changed much. We do the same things but a little quicker.
QUESTION: Whats the oldest piece of equipment youre using in the shop?
ANSWER: Right now, its a sewing machine-patcher from the 1940s, and I have one out back thats from 1920. Its still in excellent working order. Frankly, I prefer not slapping an electric motor on everything -- Id rather have the control of something you can stop with your foot or hand. This one is a one-horse-power machine, and Im the horse.
QUESTION: What would the oldest piece of equipment you had in England be?
ANSWER: Probably my grandfathers patcher, but I wouldnt even hazard a guess how old it was.
QUESTION: How is business? Whats your production like?
ANSWER: We average writing about 40 to 50 tickets a day on items to be repaired. About half of those are on multiple repairs. We also get shoes mailed in from all over the country. We even had a pair sent by a serviceman in South America who wasnt happy with the work done there. Its great to get that kind of commendation.
QUESTION: Glad you stayed?
ANSWER: Very much.
QUESTION: Whats your location and phone number?
ANSWER: Were at 2218 Watson Boulevard. Number is 328-8162.
Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.