When you first step inside Joe Medina’s cobbler shop on Paul Maillard Road in Luling, it’s as though you’ve gone back in time to a place where the stitching and resoling of shoes was big business.
And although the profession of shoe repair may be a dying trade, the walls of Medina’s shop are lined with shelves that house boots, high heels and other footwear awaiting restoration.
Medina, whose family migrated from Mexico, says that he’s been cobbling for nearly 40 years, and points out that it was his father, Francisco, who started the family business.
“My dad worked for the railroad when we moved from Donaldsonville to Luling in 1940,” said Medina.
“There was a cobbler shop down the street that was owned by a man named Ben Paul. My dad would go there at night and help him out, so when Mr. Paul retired, he sold the shop to my dad.”
Medina, now 72, learned the art of repairing old and rugged shoes by working with his dad as a child and says that it was his love for restoration that made him want to continue with the family’s business.
“Customers bring in old shoes that are in need of repair and are so amazed by how new their hunting or cowboy boots look when they pick them up,” said Medina. “That’s what I love about it, taking something old and making it new again.”
Pleasing his customers with caliber work is hands down the driving force behind Medina’s business and he says that’s what keeps people coming back.
“I make sure that I use only the best leather soles and other supplies,” said Medina. “I use quality material or I don’t use it at all.”
“Having an unsatisfied customer or having to do a job twice is bad for business and could run my customers off.”
Medina points out that when you bring your shoes in for repair he always takes out the old stitches and throws in a nice polish job.
“One customer brought in a pair of shoes that had three rows of stitch holes in it,” said Medina. “We don’t do that here. I always use the same holes and always take out old stitches.”
Medina’s cobbler shop has a strong clientele that stretches across southeast Louisiana with many customers traveling from as far away as Baton Rouge and Vacherie.
“I’ve even had customers mail me their shoes for repair,” said Medina.
In addition to mending shoes, Medina’s cobbler shop does leather purse and luggage repairs, and sells laces, polishes, cleansers, brushes and other shoe products.
Medina has seen many Luling businesses come and go, and says that he even remembers when Paul Maillard Road was simply a stretch of gravel that led residents from one shop to the next.
Joe is perhaps the last of the Medinas to practice cobbling and says that no one else in his family knows the trade.
“I’m here until the good Lord calls me home,” said Medina. “But if I retire before that, then I guess I’ll have to sell the business or find another cobbler to take over the shop.”