Your Master Cobbler Bothell shoe-repair shop thrives despite tough economy
July 19, 2010 · 3:55 PM
For most businesses, the recession of the last few years has spelled big problems, everything from plummeting profits to employee layoffs.
Terry Moran of Bothell’s Your Master Cobbler never said the recession was a good thing. But he did express a belief that the tumultuous economic times have led folks to seek varying ways to save money. And one way has been to fix or repair a good pair of shoes or a favorite handbag, extending that item’s life, rather than replacing it.
“A lot of what I do here is preventative maintenance,” said Moran, who started in the shoe-repair business when he was nine.
Having launched Your Master Cobbler in the Canyon Park QFC shopping plaza on Bothell-Everett Highway four years ago, Moran just recently moved into a larger space in the same shopping strip, expanding his operations at a time when many businesses are downsizing or simply closing their doors. And Moran readily admits shoe-repair shops were on their way toward extinction even before the recession arrived. He said advertising and marketing had changed the way many people shop.
“The message is, buy cheap, wear it out and then buy more cheap,” he said.
But Moran also believes more and more people are starting to realize they are replacing those $30, discount-store shoes a bit too often, that if they spend a bit more on a quality pair and spend a little on maintenance and repairs, they will save money in the long term. Moran said part of his job has become educating his customers on what they can do to extend the lives of their shoes and other leather or vinyl items.
“Eight out of 10 people will say, ‘I never thought of it that way,’” he said.
The maintenance or repairs Moran was referring to might include anything from replacing heels to dyeing shoes or bags to waterproofing.
If repairs and preventative maintenance continue to make up a major share of his business, Moran nevertheless expanded his retail offerings along with the size of his shop. Moran creates and markets his own line of fur-topped boots. He also carries Birkenstock shoes, Staheekum slippers and just about every shoe accessory you can imagine. Moran promised more types of boots are on the way.
“I am learning more and more about the retail philosophy, about what to buy, when to buy,” he said.
Moran seems to have a genuine enjoyment of what he does, noting he followed his father into shoe repair. He added that while growing up in the Lake City area, he spent more time in the principal’s office of his local school than he did in its classrooms. His father decided his son needed something to occupy his time. Moran ended up spending his afternoons at a Lake City repair store run by a friend of his dad, who ran a shoe repair shop inside a Nordstroms. Moran brags he was a journeyman repairman by the time he was 17.
Despite having learned a trade, Moran said he felt the need to shake things up a bit and joined the Navy before his 18th birthday. He spent four years in the service before returning to this area and opening his first shoe-repair business on Aurora Avenue. The shop was the first of three he would own and operate over the next 20 years. Moran spent a few years in the early 1990s running and managing repair shops for other owners. He then somewhat followed again in his father’s footsteps, running a refurbishing operation for Nordstroms in Phoenix, Ariz. Moran started Your Master Cobbler upon returning to this area.
“The whole idea of getting back into business started getting me excited again,” he said.
Moran admitted the first year was tough, having to start from scratch with no customer base. He said business has picked up considerably since then, but he still spent some time mulling over thoughts of expansion before taking the leap.
“I did some soul searching,” he said, “and I went for it... And it’s all coming together very, very well.”