YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A cobbler is considered a vintage tradesman but the skill is one that’s still practiced today.
The shoe repair experts are generally people interested in leatherwork or who buy a shoe repair shop.
Carmen Amadio and his sister, Rosemarie Vimmerstedt, are third-generation cobblers who learned the trade from their father – the owner of Tesone’s Boot and Shoe Repair in Boardman.
Their grandfather, who learned the skill in Italy, started Tesone’s in the 1930s on Oak Hill Avenue and West Myrtle Avenue in Youngstown, Amadio says.
The store moved to Boardman in 1948. Amadio’s Grandfather repaired shoes from the shop while working at a cement factory in Bessemer, Pa.
Amadio’s parents, who were in the restaurant business, began to help out when his grandfather was diagnosed with cancer. His parents inherited the business after he died, working solely in this trade.
“If I had a nickel for every customer that told me don’t go out of business because I don’t know where to go to get things fixed, I would have retired years ago,” Amadio says.
“It’s not like any other trade because this is a trade, a skilled trade just like a plumber, carpenter. There’s nobody getting into this. No one says when they grow up, I want to be a shoe repairman. It’s basically passed on from generation to generation.”
According to salary.com, a cobbler in the Youngstown area has a median salary of $26,401 and a range of $24,108 to $35,571.
“Well, you’re not going to get rich being a shoe repairman,” Amadio says. “I mean you’re not going to starve. But you’re not going to get rich.”
Forty years ago, in the 1980s, Amadio says there were seven people working at Tesone’s – his mother, father, sister, himself and three other employees.
They were busy then but now he and his sister, who works part-time, remain active in a different way, he says.
Tesone’s is a full-service boot and shoe repair shop that also tends to leather jackets. He is a board certified and licensed pedorthist, which is a specialist in footwear solving problems of the foot and lower limb.
“We sell diabetic shoes, custom-made orthotics,” Amadio says. “We fixed and sewed trampolines, some lawn chairs. I always tell [his customers] if you can get it off the frame, I can probably sew it.”
Another vintage trade is furniture upholstery.
Ray Morelli, co-owner of Morelli Upholstery in Beaver Township, says 90% to 95% of his business is residential, while the other 5% to 10% comes from commercial, hospital and restaurant clientele.
“Anything that has fabric on it we can pretty much do,” he says.
Jeff Morelli, the store’s other co-owner, says there are thousands of fabrics in the store.
The company takes customers’ old furniture, strips the pieces down and restores it like new.
“There’s a lot of keepsakes and nostalgia in furniture,” he says. “You’d be surprised how many people say, ‘We have got to keep this chair because it’s been in the family for 100 years.’ ”
With furniture restoration, Ray Morelli says customers can save anywhere from 30% to 50% salvaging existing furniture as opposed to buying new.
There’s a demand for this service. Jeff Morelli says his employees are backlogged for months, working on orders that came in during the spring and winter.
“The more people we have, the quicker we can get it done,” he says. “You don’t know how long a piece is going to take to do. I might have something that looks like a day job or two-days job and it turns out to be more complicated than that after you take it apart.”
Morelli Upholstery, which employs fewer than a dozen full-time and part-time personnel, is looking for an experienced sewer. The co-owners understand those who do sewing for a hobby are ideal.
Ray Morelli says if someone wants to work for his business, his brother, Jeff, could teach him. He is one of three full-time upholsterers.
Sewers could work from home and pick up and drop off their work.
“The ideal situation would be for someone to come in, learn and establish a career because there’s going to be plenty of work,” Ray Morelli says.
Jeff Morelli says those starting to work at the company could make anywhere from $10 to $15 an hour, depending on their specific tasks and skill level.
“Some people pick it up really fast. They just have an instinct for what needs to be done,” he says.
Jeff Morelli was not always an upholsterer – sewing and repairing furniture. He worked in a pizza shop before taking his talents to a furniture factory in Columbiana.
Ray Morelli worked in one as well before they both took over an old business in Leetonia in the early 1990s. They did upholstery there part-time before their respective factories closed. The brothers learned their trade from their former employers.
“It was a good place to learn to do upholstery,” Jeff Morelli says.
Another specialty vintage trade is blacksmithing and horseshoeing.
Elizabeth Rogers, assistant director of horse racing for Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course, oversees about 60 seasonal employees who make the live events happen from Oct. 22 through April 16.
Rogers is currently looking for someone to take care of horses’ hooves and can shoe them. It’s a 16- to 20-hour, part-time job paying $25 per hour for a blacksmith.
Those who have experience as a farrier and familiar with racehorses are preferred. The farriers deal with highly competitive animals in the public enclosure where they are kept and warmed up before a race.
“It’s only during live racing – four and a half hours four times a week,” Rogers says of the work hours. “It’s guaranteed that it’s going to be here through the whole racing season,” she adds.
“If you’ve got a farrier that has their group of clients that they can supplement this with. … It’s a good little side gig for farriers.”
Qualified farriers can be found at AmericanFarriers.org, which Rogers says is an excellent resource for those interested in that trade.
Normally, these farriers are there watching the races, along with washing and walking horses around.
Occasionally, these workers have to get under a horse to reset a horseshoe. This is where safety is paramount.
“Your thoroughbred horses are athletes,” Rogers says. “These horses know when it’s race time and their adrenaline starts pumping. They’re ready to go. Anything can set them off. Not all of them are always like that, but many are.
“It’s having a farrier that understands the mentality of the horse and understands how to move and work around them.”
Pictured: Carmen Amadio and his sister, Rosemarie Vimmerstedt, are the only employees at Tesone’s Boot and Shoe Repair in Boardman. Their grandfather started the business in the 1930s. They have expanded services to keep it going.