Schiro's Shoe Repair to close after 95 years
WILLMAR — When Jim Ackerman retires and closes the doors of Schiro's Shoe Repair on Thursday, it will signal the end of a business that first opened in 1922.
Ackerman will have an open house with coffee and cookies from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday at his shop in the Centre Point Mall in downtown Willmar. He hopes to be able to thank his customers for their loyalty over the years.
"It's been a wonderful business," he said. "I want to make sure my customers recognize I'm really grateful."
He turns 75 in a week and decided it's time to retire. He said he would like to sell the business with its equipment, and he's had some interest, but no sale is final yet. Some of the equipment is decades old but is well-maintained and in good working order.
Customers come to the shop from at least 60 miles away, because it's not easy to find someone to repair shoes anymore. Many small towns had shoe repair businesses at one time, but most have closed.
Ackerman said he's not sure where people will take their boots and shoes after Schiro's closes.
Ackerman is the third generation to work in the business. He took over the business from his parents 30 years ago, in 1987. His grandparents started the business in 1922 in Cosmos and later moved to Willmar. Ackerman's parents took over the business in the 1950s. They moved the shop to Litchfield in the 1960s and back to Willmar in the 1970s. The shop has been in the Centre Point Mall since returning to Willmar.
Ackerman said the business has had a good customer base. "I've probably put half-soles and heels on some cowboy boots four or five times," he said. "It's been a pleasure to work with people and work with my hands."
After Thursday, Ackerman said, he's "looking forward to taking a great big deep breath," and spending more time with his wife, Jan, and their family. They live in rural New London.
Ackerman was a math and physical education teacher before he took over the family business. He learned the trade from his father when he decided to take over the shop. He'd grown up around it and was familiar with the work already, he said.
He's repaired or re-soled many cowboy boots, work boots, sandals and high heels over the years. "If you can weld it or sew it, I can probably make it functional," he said.
Figuring out a repair sometimes takes "ingenuity and a willingness to try," he said.
"The hardest thing I had to learn is to say no to people," he said. "Some things aren't fixable." He's had to occasionally ask customers to clean the mud off their boots before he could fix them.
Much of his work came from things wearing out, but some of it came from being chewed on. "Dogs were a friend of mine, yes," he said.