15 November 2014

"I Will Do It The Old Way..."

Artsroun "Art" Apinian, 1952-2014
(photo: Jillian Fennimore)

For as long as I can remember, I've been taking my shoes to Savas Shoe Repair to be revitalized by the expert hands of Artsroun Apinian. Sadly Mr. Arpinian passed away this week. I considered him a friend, and despite this blog being on hiatus just at the moment he deserves some space here.

Mr. Arpinian was an old world cobbler the likes of which rarely exists anymore. A true master of his craft, his work was nothing short of art. His shop was tiny and reeked of shoe polish, and every inch of the place was piled high with shoes and sheets of leather. I never got rid of a pair of shoes without consulting him first. 

He really loved his work, and the better the shoes were to begin with, the more involved he would get. A long winded talker, he loved to explain to you in great detail exactly what made the shoes good, and exactly how he intended to repair them. "These shoes need new heels. I will do it the old way...with nails." And he did, every time. But it was more than that. After talk of the shoes was finished a friendly and often long conversation about just about everything else always ensued. A trip to his shop just to pick up a finished pair could easily last a half an  hour.

The shop is still open, and his son has taken over. It;s heartening to see the place still open, since a good cobbler is a precious commodity these days. I haven't brought anything for repair yet, but if he learned from his father then that's a point in his favor.

Rest well, Mr. Arpinian. My shoes and I will  miss you.


Boston Bean said...

May he rest in peace.


Ryan Dunphy said...

So sorry for the loss... may he rest in peace. Nice tribute.

Marc said...

It's something to lament. The good cobblers are fast being replaced by the ones who like glue and quick n' easy repairs that don't last. To match the kinds of shoes they now get I suppose.

Let's hope the son can keep up the good name.

Anonymous said...

This is sad news. I knew that he had some struggles with his health but did not know the end had come. While living in the Davis Square neighborhood years ago, dropping my shoes off at his shop always started as an errand but inevitably evolved into a pleasant conversation. He was just always so happy to see both me and my shoes. And, later, moving away from Somerville and encountering other shoe repairmen gave me an even greater appreciation both for his craftsmanship and genial nature. He will be missed.

Anonymous said...

I use a traditional cobbler in Leeds, England. The business has expanded recently as more people realise the benefits of a well made Northampton shoe. Not only will they look good but with regular repair will last years. It's sad to hear your cobbler and friend has passed away but the tradition he embodied will continue with his son

Anonymous said...

I was astonished when I recognized Art's face on this blog because it's been over a decade since I brought my shoes to him as an undergrad at Tufts. Sad to hear he has passed but I did smile - he DID always say he'd fix it, "with nails." I also got several scoldings from him for wearing down shoes way past when they were due for repair. He did have to rebuild many a heel but always did a great job and I learned a lot of shoe quality and that anything can be fixed - high end to student budget.

Brandon said...

Mr. Arpinian was a true craftsman, able to bring new life and beauty to well worn shoes and boots. Unfortunately the materials and methods of much foot-ware these days is not high quality, and he was clear when they were not worthy or possible to repair 😀 He and his traditional shop were a real gem in Davis, making it much more valuable than just an entertainment and restaurant mecca. Let's hope that his family (thought it was his nephew, not son, who has been filling in?) will decide to keep his memory and shop alive and well by staying put...and who knows, perhaps they are lovable "characters" too!