At age 29 Vincent started his own business so he could work with his hands. He called the store Andy’s Shoe Repair after his wife’s nickname. The San Jose shop also makes customized boots, wallets, belts and vests specializing in all kinds of animal hide.
The softest hide to work with is pigskin; which he uses to line the inside back of the heel in boots. The hardest; stingray, as in the fish – “You break a lot of needles on those hard beads on the skin”.
The most expensive: Alligator Boots at $3,400.00
Though the bread and butter of Alvarez’s business are the small daily repairs his favorite task is making boots. They can take up to 50 hours to make and prices start at $1,200.00. In a good year Alvarez might tailor 10 pairs of boots.
Though Vincent still loves coming to work every morning he worries about consumers penchant for cheap, imported shoes. “Payless is taking over,” said Alvarez of the discount chain, which offers shoes for less than the price he charges for repairing a basic sole - $25.00. “People just wear them out and buy a new pair, and their feet are paying for it in bunions and other foot problems.”
But Andy’s business depends on loyal customers. One customer has been bringing in his lizard dress shoes twice a year - for the last 20 years - to replace the soles and heels.
Vincent Alvarez hopes to continue passing down his trade. Though he has in the past franchised the Andy’s Shoe Repair name and trained new owners many of them have closed their doors. “It’s sad,” said Alvarez. “I’ll teach anyone who’s interested”.