Every fall, I take my tall black boots to a tiny local shoe repair shop here in Hoboken – Giovanni’s D’Italia Shoe Repair shop on the corner of 7th and Washington Streets. After three short days and a mere seventeen smackeroos later, my boots are returned to their original patent leather beauty with un-cracked soles, and firmly attached heels.
Always in the large blanketed window facing 7th Street, an imposing German Shepard lay napping. The first time I saw him, I was afraid to enter the shop. Instead I waited to the side and watched a handful of people enter and leave the shop. The dog would open his eyes, maybe lift his head, but he never barked or made any movement towards the shop’s patrons. After a few years, I was brave enough to touch his gruff coat, patting his flank. The faces of the men behind the counter changed over the years, but the German Shepard was always there, a sentinel. I began to wonder if he might be the store’s namesake rather than a the old wiry Italian man I pictured in my head.
Last week, I bought a new pair of boots. It seemed reasonable to retire the old pair after more than a decade, but I can’t say I love these new ones. In fact, I’ve been debating returning them and taking my decrepit boots back down to Giovanni’s in the hopes they might be able to resurrect them for one last winter.
I walked by the storefront this morning, intending to ask one of the men behind the counter if the price and time frame for a repair remained the same. As I opened the wrought iron gate, my feet froze. There, in the otherwise empty window, hung a framed collage, photos of the absent German Sheppard.
I turned to leave, then spun to catch the heavy gate in my hand before it could swing shut, silencing the loud clang that would have otherwise announced my presence.