Old-Fashioned Service And Repair, The Soul Of Family-Owned Shoe Store

By Andy Soth | June 16, 2017


James McDaniel understands he’s living in what he calls a “throwaway society.”  But that doesn’t deter him from practicing the disappearing craft of the cobbler at his family’s small business in downtown Grafton.  “Nowadays, somebody might have twenty pairs of shoes.  Years ago, you probably had only one or two pairs that you wore all the time,” says James.  “So the good ones, they last and people hang on to them as long as possible.”

James has been helping people hang on to those good shoes for decades with his expert repairs.  He says he has resoled some pairs of Allen Edmonds three or four times.

He learned shoe repair at the feet of his grandfather, Arnold Heim, who started Heim’s Shoes in 1946.  At the age of 22, James found himself going it alone when Arnold died unexpectedly.  “We had to carry on,” says James’s mother, Arlene McDaniel. She was raised in the apartment above the shop and handles the retail part of the business.

“We don’t do any of the high fashion.  We do comfort,” Arlene says of their selection.  Old-fashioned service is key, including fitting. “When we put on a shoe, they look as us kind of strange and say ‘I haven’t had anyone put a shoe on my foot in a long time,’” she says with a laugh.

Mother and son, Arlene and James, may be just a bit out of step with the times, but their work is clearly satisfying to their old souls.

Andy Soth

Andy Soth is a reporter for the “Wisconsin Life” project who grew up in a neighboring state but now loves Wisconsin because it’s like Minnesota without the smugness. 

Related Links for this Article

"21st Century Cobbler" article in Ozaukee Press newspaper


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