Thunder Bay

Award-winning Thunder Bay cobbler marks shop's 4th anniversary

In a disposable world, Martin Sugg loves making old things new again. As the "only shoe repair guy in town," he does a brisk business at his Thunder Bay, Ont. shop, Timeless Shoe Repair.

Timeless Shoe Repair celebrates fourth anniversary this September

Martin Sugg can often be found chatting with customers behind the counter of his store. In fact, he says, he often spends so much time with customers during the day, that he'll return to the shop in the evening to do repairs. (Amy Hadley/CBC)

In a disposable world, Martin Sugg loves making old things new again.

As the "only shoe repair guy in town," he does a brisk business at his Thunder Bay, Ont. shop, Timeless Shoe Repair, taking worn out shoes, boots and other items, and using his collection of old-fashioned machines — including two antique sewing machines built in the 1940s — to bring them back to life. 

"People value their footwear," said Sugg. "It gives me a lot of satisfaction to be able to take something that somebody loves so much that's in ill-repair, and return it to its former glory."

His shop is marking its fourth anniversary this fall, but he's been practising the trade for over two decades, since he got his first job repairing shoes at the age of 18. 

"It looked like something I'd be good at," said Sugg. "Working with my hands and dealing with people." 

His hunch was right. While there's no formal training for cobblers, said Sugg, he's honed his craft on the job over the years, and has even won some recognition for his skill from an international organization.

In 2017 Sugg was awarded a Silver Cup from the Shoe Service Institute of America for his work. 

While shoe repair stores may not be as common as they once were, Sugg said he believes they're due for a resurgence, especially given the power of social media to promote the work being done by craftspeople.

Each year, Sugg said he participates in the high school co-op program, hoping to encourage a new generation to consider the trade, and to share his love of a timeless profession.

"Being a cobbler is like fulfilling my life's purpose for me. You know, it's nothing glamorous or glorious, but I feel like it's what I'm meant to do." 

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