Two of North America's best cobblers are a Vancouver father-son duo
'It's really nice to work with someone who puts his heart and soul into the work,' says father of son
Though the profession of cobbler might seem like an anachronism from a long-ago fairy tale, a Vancouver father and son duo's passion for the craft of shoe repair is very 2017.
Ronald Nijdam runs the Quick Cobbler shoe repair store in Vancouver with his son Patrick.
The duo recently took home top awards at the Robert DiRinaldo Grand Silver Cup — a competition where shoe repairers from across the United States and Canada compete for the title of best crafts person.
This year, Ronald won gold and Patrick — who had entered the competition for the first time — took home bronze.
"[My dad] wanted to win gold and I couldn't beat him the first time," laughed Patrick.
A family tradition
The Nijdams, originally from Holland, come from a long line of cobblers.
"My grandfather was a cobbler back in Holland," Ronald said. "He opened a shop in his own house. My dad being one of his sons was working with him and at some point decided to start his own shop."
As a kid, Ronald swept the floors of his father's shoe repair shop and helped his grandfather with deliveries. Although he said he never really wanted to do shoe repair, it found him.
My wife is jealous is because I get to see my son everyday.- Ronald Nijdam
"I tried all kinds of different stuff but I liked shoe-repairing the best. So that's how I became a shoe repairer," he laughed.
Many of the machines used by shoe repairers were manufactured in the Netherlands. Ronald originally came to Canada to train Canadians on the machines and ended up staying.
Listen to Ronald and Patrick Nijdam's story on CBC's The Early Edition:
His son Patrick followed in his father's footsteps and learned the craft from his father over the years.
"I value working in a business that is a tradition in the family," he said.
"Working for my dad and with my dad for the last 10, 15 years has been awesome. I'm very comfortable fixing almost any shoe so I'm learning more and knowing that there's more to learn still is very cool."
A shoe-repair renaissance
Ronald says his son taking over the family business is not an anomaly.
"Every year we go to these shoe-repair conventions all over North America and more and more I see people my age bringing kids to their convention.
"They are taking over their dad's shops, or there's young people that have decided this is what they want to do with the rest of their lives and they're male as well as female, all under 30 years old," he said.
He says his customers are more appreciative of quality footwear and trying to reuse and repair shoes of higher quality rather than have massive numbers of low-quality shoes.
"Sometimes it looks like a lost art but I think there's a new resurgence," he said. "It's good to see."
He's happy to spend time with his son and teach him the craft.
"My wife is jealous because I get to see my son everyday," he chuckled.
"Also, he's a really good craftsmen. It's really nice to work with someone who puts his heart and soul into the work that he does — son or not."
But he's still a proud papa with high expectations for his son.
"For bronze at his first time entering, it holds great promise," he added, laughing.
"There's still the silver and gold out there ... so there's more to be done. Now he needs to try harder still."
With files from The Early Edition