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A business with real sole

Dennis and Janette Bartlett of Jolly Good Shoe Repairs in Masterton. PHOTO/GIANINA SCHWANECKE

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From a policeman pounding the pavement, to an orderly at Wairarapa Hospital and growing hydroponic tomatoes, Dennis and Janette Bartlett have walked a mile in many shoes.

Now the Masterton couple are planning to tread a new path after more than 20 years in the shoe repair business.

Dennis said they fell into the industry “by accident”.

When the couple’s hydroponic growing business closed, Janette’s brother helped them get a foot in the door by offering them work at one of three shoe repair shops he owned in the Wellington region which were managed by his sons.

“When my nephew decided to become a minister, we bought the shop off of him,” she said.

Both were able to train on the job though a formal apprenticeship scheme which was abandoned years ago.

“I think a lot of people think it’s really high skill, but it lends itself quite nicely to learning on the job,” Dennis said.

“It’s very practical and about common sense.”

He said the most difficult part was figuring out what glue was used as the technology and techniques used hadn’t really changed.

In 2014 the couple took over Jolly Good Shoe Repairs in Masterton – the only such shop in all of Wairarapa and even further afield.

They offer a wide range of services including repairing holes, worn soles, broken zips, lost buckles and providing orthotic and shoe care products and accessories.

The couple do about 100 pairs of shoes each week, though say it can be quite seasonal – they get a lot more customers when it’s raining.

While they’ve enjoyed running the shop, they’ve put the business on the market as they plan to retire at the end of the year.

“We won’t just close it,” Dennis said.

He said they would be happy to stay on and help train a new owner in much the same way they learned.

“You have to have patience,” Janette said. “You need to figure things out before you can get into them.”

She said she would miss their loyal customer base and got a lot of satisfaction out of the job, especially repairing some of the more sentimental items.

“I get the satisfaction of being able to help people. We get all sorts of things and a lot of people’s favourite shoes.”

From old briefcases, to dog-chewed leather military caps and a very worn and holey set of beloved office slippers – they’ve seen it all.

“We like a challenge,” Dennis said.

The trick to shoe longevity was buying quality, and proper care and maintenance.

“Often a really nice shoe will not have had a lick of polish [since it was bought],” he said.

Janette said you get what you pay for when it comes to buying shoes – RM Williams are one of the best brands, she said.

“If you buy quality, you get them for years and years.

“If you start with quality, then it pays to repair them.

“You can resole and heel them three or four times.”

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