Last Shoe Repair Business in Eastern Iowa

The end of one small business in Marion could present a dilemma for those in the I-380 corridor needing shoes repaired. What was once a simple service available in many places isn’t easy to find anymore . And what may be the last shoe repair shop in the metro Cedar Rapids area is closing soon.

Rich Foens, owner of Smitty's Shoe Repair in Marion works on the remaining pairs of shoes at his business Tuesday. Foens is closing what's apparently the final shoe repair business in the metro area on November 1st.

Smitty’s Shoe Repair on the square in downtown Marion is closing November 1st.

Owner Rich Foens began learning how to repair shoes at his parent’s shoe shop at age nine in Davenport. He’s kept it up for 70 years.

But Foens says if a shoe wears out these days more and more people just throw it out and buy another pair. And that doesn’t leave a lot of room for a shoe repair business.

“It’s pretty much a dying breed. There’s no young people going into it,” Foens said.

Foens posted a sign inside his shop Monday saying no new business accepted—retiring.

He has about 50 pairs left to fix and then that’s it.

Foens said he tried to train people over the years who might want to take over the shop. But one apprentice lasted just two weeks and the other three weeks. Foens says 50 + hour weeks, no benefits and uncertain business prospects scared a lot of people away.

For him, the final push into retirement, at age 80, came when building owners told him they needed his shoe shop space to put in an elevator to serve an upstairs meeting hall.

Foens says the deaths of shoe repair shop owners in Cedar Rapids, Dubuque and Iowa City last year narrowed the options for customers even before his decision to retire after 35 years at the Marion location.