Finch and Park: ‘We can save your sole’
M ichael Finch and
Rachel Park of Mid-
Coast Shoe Repair at
Fort Andross in
Brunswick — formerly known as ShuRenu — dove into the cobbling trade in February when Park’s parents bought the business. Before setting out, they trained with the former owners, who were lifelong shoe workers, first at L.L. Bean and then on their own.
The pair will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 1 p.m. Dec. 14 to celebrate recent upgrades and renovations at their shop with cider and doughnuts. They’ll offer a 10 percent discount on shoes brought in for repair on that day.
Finch and Park explain why they took up a traditional profession, in their own words:
Michael Finch: I think one of the coolest parts of this job is the stories you hear about the shoes.
Rachel Park: Yeah. But I just like working with shoes, too. It fills something in me. I’ve always been obsessed with shoes. That’s why it’s a good job fit for me. That, and how we’re able to transform something for somebody. Obviously they care enough about it that they’d bring it here. And it’s always disappointing when you can’t fix something for somebody and they really try to plead with you to do it.
Finch: “I don’t care how much it costs!”
Park: Yeah, right! The transformation is really important for people. Even though you’re just fixing shoes, you’re not just fixing shoes. Because it’s important to people.
Finch: I took care of flight gear — boots and gloves (in the Navy for more than 20 years) — every item that a military flier wears in combat and noncombat situations — parachutes, life rafts, life vests — a lot of gluing, sewing, snaps, zippers and that type of thing.
I think you either have it, or you don’t, in this kind of thing. The thing that Rachel and I have in common is when someone brings us a torn hunk of leather with the sole hanging off it, we both can see the finished, repaired shoe.
It’s just something you have. I don’t see that wrecked shoe. I see it in the way that it was and I know right then if I can make it that way again or not, or if Rachel can bring it back to life. And that’s our saying here, “We can save your sole.”
Park: Right. Well, you’re good on the fly. You come up with things a lot faster than I do sometimes. I’ll look at something and it will take me a little while to figure out how I’m going to execute. You just grab it and go. But that’s probably because of the military thing. You’re used to being under the gun, a little bit.
Finch: We have an opposite approach.
Finch: There’s things I look at and say, “Aye, aye, aye, this is kind of artsy — not really my deal.” And Rachel will be like, “You put a couple grommets here and a rivet here and a snap here and sew a zipper in and this’ll be great.”
People come in with the most mundane thing and say they’d like it a little dressier. Well, go buy something dressier, is my initial thought. But Rachel says, “Oh, I know” and she goes to work.
Park: I have numerous colors of shoe polish. You also have other ways of bringing color back into a shoe that’s pretty beat up. I guess it’s artistic in that way, understanding the color palette. It seems kind of silly talking about it this way, but I went to makeup school in Los Angeles. Not cosmetology school, but character and special effects and beauty makeup for film and stage work. Sometimes it has crossed over as color and blending — blending a prosthetic is no different than blending a patch on a shoe. It’s all about where light hits it.
Finch: You know, the artists in this mill treat us as fellow artists. That’s cool, especially coming from my background. There was nothing artsy about what I did. That part is fulfilling. It makes you feel good.
Finch: I’m a polisher. I love polishing black boots. But we learned early on to ask first.
There was a biker, with beautiful boots — and polish isn’t just for prettiness it’s to protect that leather — and he dropped them off and we resoled them. They were beautiful. I polished these things, I tell you they would have passed any military inspection, these boots. And he came in, a big gruff guy with a teardrop tattoo. I put them up on the counter and I’m all boastful, like look what I’ve done.
He was obviously angry. He’s like, “Those haven’t had polish on them since Sturgis in ’73, you know! They were covered in patina and road ridden and I just wanted bottoms put on ’em!”
So I kinda backed off a little bit. I was hoping he wouldn’t come over the counter. He was a pretty big fellow. So I said to him, “Are you a veteran?”
He said, “Yeah, I’m a veteran.”
I said, “Well, you get 5 percent off.”
MID-COAST SHOE REPAIR is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, although the store closes for lunch from 12:30 p.m. to 1 p.m. Monday. The shop is located in Fort Andross, 14 Maine St., Suite 9, Brunswick. Phone is 725-8557 and email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Photojournalist Troy R. Bennett presents the third installment of First-Person Pictures, an occasional series that matches Bennett’s photographs with their subjects’ own words about what they do.