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Latest owner gives Everett’s Shoe Repair new life

by Andrew Alonzo | aalonzo@claremont-courier.com

Last Tuesday, the COURIER dropped by Everett’s Shoe Repair unannounced to chat with its new owner, Victor Ojeda from Los Angeles who wants to keep the shoe repair industry alive.

“The craft that we do here, how you repair a shoe, and how you can bring back to life a really old pair of shoes…some people call it…an art that not so many can do anymore,” he said. “I wanted to give it a life and keep [it] going.”

The accommodating Mr. Ojeda was not only fine with his daily routine being disrupted for an hour, but turned out to be a humble family man with a wife and two children. Though she was not there on Tuesday, he said his wife Cynthia Gomez occasionally comes into the shop to help.

“She doesn’t do this, but she’s going to learn. Eventually she wants to be here working with me,” he said.

While most know how Everett’s got its start some 95 years ago, not many know its new and now fifth owner.

Even as a young man living in Los Angeles, Mr. Ojeda, now 35, dreamed of one day having his own shoe business. Whether it was a repair shop, a shoe cleaning hustle or creating his own brand of shoes, Mr. Ojeda was determined to open up his dream shop somehow, some way. After immigrating from Mexico to Los Angeles in 2006 at just 19 years of age, Mr. Ojeda said he started working with his brother in Century City shining shoes. “Then my brother also started doing shoe repair and I went to work with him…Life sent me into shoe repair and [now] I’m here.”

For over a decade while working at his brother’s Los Angeles shop, Mr. Ojeda honed and perfected his technique of repairing and reviving all types of shoes. From gluing tongues and sneaker fabrics back together, to carrying out hand-stitched sole repairs on boots, he says there’s no shoe he can’t fix or restore. “I can work on any shoe, if it’s repairable,” he said. “Some shoes, you cannot save them.”

In January of 2021, Mr. Ojeda said a customer came into his brother’s store and told him about an opportunity at Everett’s while he was assisting them. The customer explained that Everett’s previous owner, Ernest Marcy, was getting ready to retire and was looking for someone to buy the shop. Mr. Ojeda decided to throw his hat in the ring and met with Mr. Marcy a week later and they began to negotiate the terms of the shop.

“I’ve been doing this for 15 years and I really like it and I really enjoy it. So that’s why I didn’t think about it twice to buy the shop,” he said. “I liked the neighborhood. I like everything. And I see a big opportunity for me to have my own business. And that’s why I’m here.”

Since April, Mr. Ojeda has officially been the one behind the counter repairing the shoes of Claremonters. While he obviously enjoys the work, he also mentioned that it can be a challenge at times since this is his first business—and because he’s usually the only one on staff. Aside from the occasional help from his wife, he said he remains up to the challenge of owning an icon like Everett’s.

“It is because it’s my own business now and I have to do everything…It’s not like I work for somebody and I just go and do my work…I have to be here. If I’m sick, I cannot call, ‘Hey, I’m sick. I’m not going to go to work.’ I have to be here and that’s the big difference,” he explained.

He added that now as a small business owner with a passion for what he does, no day or shift really feels like work for him.

“When you have your own business, you always work more and you’re always working, but you don’t really feel like you’re working, because it’s for yourself. It’s for your family,” he explained. “It’s like whatever you do, it’s best for you and your family, or at least that’s how I see it.”

Each time customers stop by to drop off a pair of shoes, or just one, Mr. Ojeda said they’re not only supporting his family and new business, but they’re also helping the environment. These days, he knows people are quick to replace their rugged and salvageable shoes for a pair of new ones instead of repairing them. However, he emphasized this just creates more waste and trash in the world. He shared a story about a customer he had over the weekend.

“She wanted me to redo the soles. But it was really, really old. The glue is not going to help that shoe,” he said. “So I [asked] her why she wanted to fix it, right? And then she said she likes to fix things instead of getting new ones to save the planet and help.”

While it’s on a case-by-case basis whether to get new shoes or repairs—as sometimes the monetary scale tips in either direction—Mr. Ojeda said at the end of the day, shoe repair shops and handymen like him are essential to the community.

“It’s more than a service for them and something that everybody needs,” he said. “Machines work with power. I can still fix shoes without power, because I know how to do it.”

Mr. Ojeda plans to keep Everett’s as it is now: Claremont’s go-to shoe repair shop, serving residents of all of the surrounding cities. With a hectic schedule every day and no time to himself while at the shop, Mr. Ojeda said it may be a while until he begins his next project, making his own custom boots.

“I want to, but I don’t know if it’s going to happen because of the time,” he said. “And to make a good pair of shoes it takes time.”

The shop’s address and phone number remain the same: 122 North Yale Avenue and (909) 626-0213. Stop by Everett’s Shoe Repair and meet Mr. Ojeda Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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