By Katrina Lewis
For Gregory Moore, an unusual profession came about in an unusual way.
“Free education—that’s how I got started,” Moore said.
A neighbor’s family had owned a cobbler shop for more than 100 years in Salem, Va. Then one family member took the business up the road, opening a shop in Buena Vista. Moore, who is from the area, took an interest in the business and craft of the cobbler, and when he heard that the Buena Vista shop was closing, he purchased some of its machinery after the owner offered to train him in the craft.
Moore then ran his own shop in Buena Vista for 16 years before bringing his business to Lexington. He opened Cobblestone Shoe & Leather Repair on W. Nelson St. in December 2015.
One look into Moore’s shop confirms that competition in the area is limited. The shop has been open for only a little over a year, but the shelves are filled with leather goods pending repair. Moore said that the closest similar shop is about 45 miles away.
“We’re a full-service repair shop,” Moore said, adding that his shop also repairs small leather accessories and some luggage. “If we can repair it, we can let you know what time we have to look at it.”
Moore, who repairs both by hand and by machine, alternates between a workbench covered in tools and a large finishing machine with several different motors.
One of his most common repairs involves replacing the worn-out heels of shoes. He said that he can tell when heels need to be replaced when they have worn down to the base.
“There’s quite a number of ways to put heels on for different types of shoes. This way is for this type of dress shoe,” Moore said, beginning his work on a pair of men’s dress shoes.
Moore starts by pulling out the nails that hold the old heel in place. He then trims the pre-cut heels apart to align them on each base.
“We have pre-cut heels and heels you can cut out of a sheet,” Moore said. “I like to use the pre-cut when I can.”
Moore then moves from his workbench to the finishing machine to sand the heels and their bases down.
“The sanding makes for a better surface for the glue to stick to,” he said.
After sanding, Moore applies a rubber-based contact cement to both the heels and their bases. He lets the glue dry before hammering the new heel on.
Next, Moore trims the excess rubber from around the heel of the dress shoe. For a smooth finish, he then moves his work back to the finishing machine to sand the heel.
To finish off the heel replacement, Moore nails the heel to its base.
“Some heels are nailed on by machine, some by hand. I like to do this one by hand,” Moore said about the dress shoe.
Once the heel is on, he touches up the heel and its base with ink, lets the ink dry and then polishes the shoes before returning them to their owner.
“We polish them, get them looking nice,” Moore said, “and then the heel job is done.”