Good for the sole, Currie’s Shoe Repair in business 119 years

Posted on February 25, 2022 | By Alexander Chafe | 0 Comments

With traditional tools, wooden shoe molds and a 100-year-old sewing machine, Currie’s maintains the cobbler trade. Though it may seem old fashioned, the business that started almost 120 years ago has passed through three generations and lives on.

 

Frank Currie (shown on the far left) outside of Currie’s Shoe Repair on Queen Street (photo credit: David Currie).

 

Finding a Pair

After working for a shoe factory, Frank Currie decided to open Currie’s Shoe Repair on Queen Street in Charlottetown, P.E.I. in 1903. His first employee was a friend and former co-worker, Joe Hennessey. Together they shined and repaired shoes, making them good as new.

Business was a success. In the early days, Currie’s supplied products to local cobblers, shoe shiners and shoe stores, as well as provided expert advice about the trade across the Island. To meet demand, Currie once had six employees working at the shop. However, business for the trade has lessened over the years, with changing product trends and consumer behaviour.

 

Dave Currie at work repairing shoes (photo credit: Sarah Keaveny Vos, CBC)

 

Family Traditions

The Currie family has operated their namesake business throughout three generations. In 1920, Frank’s son Vernon began learning the trade at Currie’s and in 1958 his son David did the same. Joe Hennessey’s son also worked at the shop for 50 years. Now owner and operator, David Currie is the shop’s longest and only employee.

After years of operating in the store front on Queens Street, Currie’s moved operations to the building’s basement in the 1980s. In 2018, the business moved again to Kent Street. The ‘new’ building is well known to the Currie family, being the home where both Dave’s father and grandfather grew up.

 

Currie’s Shoe Repair’s first cash box from 1903, with their first penny attached to the front (photo credit: Sarah Keaveny Vos, CBC)

 

Changing Trends

Though shoe repair was once popular, times are changing. Dave Currie says there were once 25 shoe repair shops on the Island, and now there are three including Currie’s, Dr. Shoe (also in Charlottetown) and Summerside Shoe Clinic.

Compared to the early days, there’s a major difference in both style and quality of footwear today. Stilettos have been swapped for more comfortable sneakers and flip flops, and leather soles have been replaced with cheaper plastic ones that aren’t worth repairing. Instead of looking for a fix, customers tend to start shopping for a fresh pair.

 

Sign from Currie’s Shoe Repair shop (photo credit: Riviera Buzz)

 

Still Walking

Though demand isn’t what it used to be, Dave continues to operate Currie’s Shoe Repair on Kent Street. Feeling the effects of the pandemic, Dave is hopeful that business will pick up as life gets back to normal. But, he enjoys the excuse to get out of the house regardless. As for the future of Currie’s, Dave says it will end with him. His five sons have chosen different career paths and with footwear becoming more disposable, shoe repair is a dying trade.

Of course, Dave has no intention of closing-up shop any time soon. Still working at 83-years-old, he playfully says he’s “shooting for 100.”

For now, the Currie family craft is still walking, 119 years later.

 


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