By: NICK WORT
The River Park area is home to many unique businesses, all with different stories and backgrounds. Tony’s Quality Shoe Repair is no different.
The business, which is owned and operated by Tony Sergio, specializes in repairing shoes and boots, as well as leather work and some tailoring.
“Anything you give to me I’ll do. In fact I have two chairs to reupholster,” Sergio said. “I do coats and jackets, I’ll do anything!”
Sergio came to America in 1964. Originally from southern Italy, Sergio worked in Germany before moving to America.
“I wanted a day off, Sunday. So I came [to America] when I found out this country has days off,” Sergio said.
He’s been making and repairing shoes for over 60 years. Sergio was trained by his uncle in Italy prior to immigrating to America, and has been making shoes the entire time he’s lived here.
“In Italy we didn’t have any machinery, so you have to do everything by hand,” Sergio said. “I had a good teacher, a very good teacher. My uncle was one of the best. I won’t say I’m equal to him but….very close.”
After moving to the area, Sergio bought a shoe repair business near Notre Dame. He has been in this area for the past 49 years and has ran his River Park shop for the last ten. His business has also recently expanded, with another shoe repair store opening on North Ironwood Drive. However, this has not been the only business expansion Sergio has made in his career.
“I had four shoe shops at one time, two in Mexico and two in Elkhart,” Sergio said. “And one I sold over here in South Bend.”
Sergio also makes custom shoes and boots on occasion, particularly for those who have very large or very small feet, and those who need special shoes for medical conditions. He makes most shoes out of a wide variety of leather, but will make shoes with fabric or vinyl as well. A handmade pair of shoes from Sergio costs between $500 and $700, depending on the style and materials used. They take around three to four days to make.
Sergio has also spent time teaching people to speak Italian. He noted one instance where he taught Italian to a Notre Dame student, who eventually moved to Italy after graduation and got married.
Sergio pointed out that he enjoys making customers happy and loves to do his work.
“I’m very happy to do this business in this country, I just wish I could teach somebody like I’ve taught before,” Sergio said. “You have one life to live, why do you have to rush? Why do you have to be mad? You know? Many times people come over here mad, after ten minutes the mad is gone, ya know? I don’t know if it’s my accent, I don’t know if its me, I don’t know, but I like to make everyone happy.”
Tony’s Quality Shoe Repair is located at 1508 Mishawaka Avenue, across the street from Adam’s High School. The store’s phone number is 246-9700.