EASTON — Caldwell Shoe Repair, 15 S. West St., announced it will close its doors this week, but is hoping to continue the business at a smaller location.
“It was a very hard decision to sell the building, as you know the shoe shop trade is kind of a piece of the past now,” owner Charlene Caldwell DeShields said. “When you want your shoes, now you can go to stores like Target and Wal-Mart to buy new shoes. The family would like to thank the community for their service they have given. It has been a wonderful journey serving (everyone).”
Since 1935, Caldwell Shoe Repair has repaired shoes including belts, soles, high heels and even horse saddles. The family legacy started when Charles Caldwell invested $100 earned on his father’s farm and $50 borrowed from a friend, which was a huge sum of money to amass in the midst of a terrible depression.
Caldwell was one of 14 children who grew up on a farm in McDaniel, near Tilghman.
Charles Caldwell and his brother Stanley moved the shop from Dover Street to West Street in the 1960s. The shop then flourished, garnering an enviable record of quality and service, with customers frequenting the shop from all over the Mid-Shore.
DeShields, who is Charles Caldwell’s daughter, took over as ownership after her father died in 1997 and Stanley Caldwell died in 1999. She also is a first grade teacher at Easton Elementary School-Dobson for 42 years.
Since 1999, the shop was managed by cobbler Leroy Potter and assistant manager Ricky Caldwell, a nephew. Other employees who have had the opportunity to work at Caldwell’s are Herman Jenkins and Hayward Henry, who then opened up his own shoe repair store in Seaford, Del. Potter started working at the shop when he was 15 years-old and has stood by the company for 50 years.
Potter was also the head custodian at Easton Elementary School for more than 30 years.
“When I first started, I use to come up on Saturdays to do a little bit of work, and then I continued working all the way until I graduated High School,” Potter said. “Then I worked for the board of education. I was working here during the day and working at the board of education at night.”
Ricky Caldwell also started working at the shop when he was in high school, and he was a Talbot County Public Schools bus driver for 41 years.
“We have come and worked nights, we had so many shoes to do and I retired from driving school bus,” Ricky Caldwell said. “I still worked here part time, and after I retired, I stayed here. Leroy and I still did the work, and we have fun working together. We adopted him when he was really young, and if one of us doesn’t do it, the other one does. We are a good team.”
Recently, they have become creative in their business, catering to customers needs. They have built up shoes for customers’ orthopedic issues. Potter said it has become a big business due to hip operations or an individual’s leg can be shorter or longer.
One memorable request Ricky Caldwell recalled is making shoes for a Labrador retriever because the owner did not want to scratch the floor. They have not only catered to special requests, but Caldwell Shoe Repair has donated shoes to the community.
Comptroller Peter Franchot recognized the shop’s hard work and dedication to keep the store running last year when he presented DeShields, Ricky Caldwell and Potter each with medallions and certificates of recognition, and a certificate to the shopkeepers for their historic and outstanding service and example to the community.
Although they are closing a large chapter at the current location, DeShields, Ricky Caldwell and Potter would like to find a smaller, affordable space to keep the legacy strong.
“If anybody knows of a space in Easton, please let us know,” DeShields said. “We want to keep the legacy going and continue to have business for our faithful customers.”
Lynn Ackerson of Easton has been customer for five years and would like to continue to see the business thrive. She recalled meeting Potter for the first time five years ago when he repaired her shoes without a problem. She said she hopes the business can find another place to rent.
“The first thing that I encountered was that beautiful grin of his, and brought him an impossible task,” Ackerson said. “I told him my shoes were worn out, but he still fixed my shoes. For five years, (Potter) has been taking care of my shoes. I love the fact that it is an original shoe cobbler. I think it is nice to keep things going that gives us a sense of roots in the community and he is a big part of it.”
The family is reaching out to the community to find a small building available for lease. Those with possible locations can contact DeShields at firstname.lastname@example.org.