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A Shoe Repair Shop In Atlanta Struggles To Keep Going After The Shutdown

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

There's a little shoe repair shop in my hometown - Atlanta - in the Buckhead neighborhood. It's been in the same shopping center for more than 50 years.

(SOUNDBITE OF DIAL TONE)

JOE JORDAN: Good morning - Cato's Shoes (ph).

KELLY: That's Joe Jordan. He's 82. Joe and his wife Hattie, who is 75, run the shop. He fixes the shoes. She minds the front counter.

HATTIE JORDAN: He's my right hand, and I'm his right hand. So we work together (laughter) - two right hands. Yeah.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Business had been slowing down for a while. Joe Jordan says young folks these days don't think of getting their shoes repaired. They just throw them out or wear sneakers. Then came the pandemic. The Jordans had to close the shop. When they reopened earlier this month, they were behind on the rent and not sure if customers would return.

KELLY: Well, the Atlanta newspaper The Journal-Constitution ran a story about their plight, and new customers showed up. They brought their shoes to be fixed and also brought donations to help the couple with expenses.

J JORDAN: They kept coming to our rescue.

SHAPIRO: Joe Jordan did not set out to have a career in shoes. He grudgingly fixed them when he was in the army. He came to despise broken shoes and boots.

J JORDAN: And I thought to myself that I would never do that to get a job.

KELLY: But, out of work in the 1950s, his shoe repair experience led him to take a job at Cato's Shoe Repair. The then-owner took a shine to Jordan, so much so he sold him the shop for $1. Hattie joined him in the business, working alongside her husband.

H JORDAN: I can do a little bit of everything but fixing the shoe. I can't fix the shoe.

SHAPIRO: Instead, she handles customers and polishes shoes.

KELLY: The Jordans commute an hour and a half every day from a distant county to the shop. Expenses do keep piling up, but Joe wants to keep working.

J JORDAN: I think it keeps me going because it keeps me active. It's like a hobby rather than a job.

KELLY: For Hattie, though, it's another matter.

H JORDAN: Well, I'm not planning on continuing to work no more than this year. There come a time when you need to just let go.

KELLY: For now, Joe and Hattie Jordan are staying in business one shoe at a time.

(SOUNDBITE OF JACK NITZSCHE'S "THE LONELY SURFER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.