Shoes and blues

Preston Powers

Photo By Tom Angel

Many readers know Preston Powers as the knowledgeable host of KZFR’s popular acoustic-blues show, Blues Bayou. Downtown denizens also know him as the affable, long-time owner of a shoe-repair shop on Third Street. He moved to the area from L.A. in 1985 and got a job working for Paul Reed, who owned a parking lot sweeping firm and also ran the shoe-repair shop at Diamond W. In the mornings Powers drove a vacuum sweeper, in the afternoons he worked with Reed at the repair shop, learning the craft. In 1990 he opened his own place: “Paul always told me, ‘Get your own shop. You’ll never get rich, but you’ll never go hungry.’ He was right.”

What’s shoe repairing about these days?

It’s mostly good men’s dress shoes and cowboy boots. Some women’s shoes, too.

What’s the biggest problem with the business?

Most shoes are made in China, and they’re not made to be repaired. The bottoms are made of urethane or polyurethane or some such petroleum stuff.

What about the uppers?

They’re mostly low-budget leather with plastic on the bottom. Most have plastic or cardboard heel bases. Even with leather soles and heels, the leather is ground-up stuff, like pressboard. When it gets wet, it crumbles.

Our grandparents took really good care of shoes.

Oh yeah, they’d put trees in them at night, polish them regularly. Shoes were meant to last then. Very few people even shine their own shoes nowadays. They don’t care if they’re scuffed and dirty. Only professional people seem to care.

Can anything be done to make throwaway shoes last longer?

Put heel plates on. Keep them clean. Dust and dirt are like sandpaper to shoes.

Are there any good shoes on the market?

Allen Edmunds. They’re the best shoes I’ve seen. They’ll put you out a couple hundred bucks, but if you tree ’em, clean ’em and resole ’em, they’ll last 10 years.

Where can you get them?

Nordstrom at the Arden Fair Mall [in Sacramento]. Chico doesn’t sell good shoes.