Photos: Northampton's 'Sole Man' still repairing shoes after over 20 years
Joe Serrazina was brought up in such a situation as he repairs shoes and just about anything leather.
To his customers he's just known as "Joe," and you can set your watch by his arrival every morning at 6 a.m. Serrazina, at age 65, has been cobbling shoes since he was just 10 years old. To say "Joe has sole" would be an understatement.
Serrazina is the proprietor of the Shu Fix shop, located in a small one level building on Hawley Street in Northampton. Joe could be found there hammering, cutting, stitching, grinding and polishing shoes and boots by the hundreds between dawn and dusk for the last 24 years.
When Serrazina originally came to Northampton, there were four other shoe repair shops in the area. Now, the only one remaining is his. Serrazina learned the cobbler's trade from watching and helping the master shoemakers in his fathers shop in Portugal.
Some of the loyal customers he now has came to his shop with their parents as children and now bring their own children to have their shoes fixed.
"A good pair of shoes could last 30-to-40 years with proper care and repair" Serrazina said.
At the shop, he is surrounded by special shoe repair machines, some as old as 100 years others as new as 20 years old. Bits of leather and rubber litter the floor; leather soles, rubber soles and the smell of glue and polishes permeate the air.
Every now and then, the bell at the front door will ring alerting Joe as another customer comes into the shop, there to retrieve or drop off a pair of shoes. In Northampton, SHU FIX is the only game in town- Joe's the star, and everyone knows Joe.
Watching this shoe wizard at work one realizes that his every movement is sure, every tool used is just what is needed for the job and no time is wasted. One shoe after another crosses the work bench- a rebirth for a customer's comfortable or beloved pair of shoes. Just watching Joe work the shoes you can see its a labor of love, and he will tell you, "I love shoes", and "Every shoe is different, you gotta know shoes."
A small TV sits in the corner of the shop with the volume turned down. It is his constant companion amid the whirling noises of the machines or the pounding of his hammer. The TV is always tuned to whatever soccer (football, as Joe calls it) game is on.
All around the shop there are barrels and tables of shoes with yellow tags waiting his expert touch and out front the bins are full of finished shoes waiting for owners to retrieve. Being so busy, I asked why he doesn't have help.
"I've tried but I don't have time to teach and they (the help) get bored polishing shoes all day and leave in a couple of weeks," Serrazina said. Asked if he ever thought of how many shoes he's repaired in his 54 years, he just shrugged his shoulders and replied, "If I had a dollar for every shoe that passed through my hands I'd be a millionaire."
With that said, Joe the cobbler goes back to his shoes, and amid the noises of the shop, a quiet whistling tune emanates from the workbench, because Serrazina is a man who whistles while he works.