Louisville Magazine

JAN 2017

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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gocards.com LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 12.16 23 TOOL OF THE TRADE When I call Joe Nickie, the owner of King's Shoe Repair, and tell him that Louisville Magazine wants to do a story about his business, he says, "We've been here for 56 years. What took you so long?" I wonder that myself when I enter the store, behind a strip mall off Breckinridge Lane. Nickie and co-owner Bill Gurvich estimate the shoe count to be about 4,000. King's makes most of its money by fixing "defective" shoes from high-end retailers like Johnston & Murphy and ECCO. "The shoe companies send us ones with broken heels, bad trimming, whatever," Nickie says. A pair of leather shoes that would've cost you $200 directly from the shoe manufacturer might run you $50 at King's. Nickie says the "finishing machine" is the shop's most important tool. I follow him to the back of the store to check out the hulking blue equipment. I squint, tilt my head like a visitor at an art museum trying to "get" an abstract painting. Wheels, brushes, levers, knobs — the finishing machine seems like something you'd need a license to operate. The machine trims, sands, polishes, buffs. It's so retro-looking, I ask Nickie if he's been using the same machine for 56 years. He laughs and tells me no; he's gone through several through the decades. Back when Nickie worked on a first-generation finishing machine, he spent his days breathing in leather dust and wiping debris from his eyes. A half-century of hard, exacting work has left his hands callused and blackened. I ask if he's happy with his vocation. "It's kept my family fed," he says. "I was able to raise my girls. What more could you ask for?" — Leah Blair

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