Interview with Colin Bowers of Snobs (January 13th 2011)
Rochford Life: Colin, this shop has been here quite some time hasn’t it?
Colin: I’ve been here twenty four years and my dad had it before that and he bought it off an old man before that; it’s been here a long, long time.
RL: And your work comprises mainly....?
Colin: Shoe repairing. We do sell shoes as well, and we do cut keys but it was always a shoe repairers first.
RL: We live in a day when people just throw things away, but obviously they don’t with shoes?
Colin: Well, there are more and more people buying decent priced shoes so it warrants paying to get them repaired. You’ll always get people who buy cheap shoes, and they bin them, but you also get the boys who work up in the city and pay £125 a pair, so obviously they are going to get them repaired, they aren’t just going to throw them in the bin.
RL: Soling and reheeling?
Colin: Yes, I do leather soles and I stitch leather soles on. I finish them by hand, polish them by hand so they look really nice, and we do a lot of that.
RL: What sort of prices are we talking about?
Colin: Leather soles and heels, about twenty six pounds for the pair. If you are having stick on soles and heels, seventeen pounds fifty. If you’ve paid over a hundred pounds for your shoes twenty six pounds is nothing to keep them going.
RL: Is there such a thing as an average length of life for a sole if you are wearing them every day?
Colin: No, because if you take leather soles, it’s great in the Summer but in the winter they act like a sponge, they soak water up, they wear out quicker and their life is shorter than if you only wore them in the Summer. Some people can seem to make a pair of leather soles last for ever and other people can go through them in months. Very often when buying shoes for children they may come with skinny little heels on and so I can put on much harder heels than you get when you buy them. It’s the same with women’s stiletto shoes. When you buy stiletto shoes they will often come with plastic heels which last five minutes, but if you bring them in here I can either put rubber ones on or metal ones on that are going to last a lot longer.
RL: So someone can bring in a mediocre pair of shoes and you can improve them.
Colin: Oh yes! If someone brings in a pair of leather soles that they’ve been wearing through quickly, if they tell me this I can take the leather soles off and stitch on a pair of resin soles and they will last a lot longer. So there are different ways of doing things, according to what customers want really.
RL: If I bring a pair of shoes in to be soled and heeled, what’s the sort of turn around time?
Colin: If you bring heels in and go and do some shopping, I’ll have them done by the time you get back. If it’s stick-on soles and heels, I’ll probably need about forty minutes, depending how busy I am. Leather soles and heels I need a day or so because to stitch them, a lot of work goes in to them. If you have long soles, and I rip the whole sole off, I need a few days to do that.
RL: You also sell shoes. What sort of range do you keep?
Colin: Just a middle range or middle of the road, basic type of shoe. Not top end and not bottom end plastic. Kids shoes, if I can get them, are leather and we usually try and keep the price at about twenty five pounds a pair. Women’s shoes, I try and keep the price about the same, twenty or twenty five pounds. For men’s shoes it tends to be from about twenty five up to thirty five or forty pounds. I don’t order in shoes for people because if I get them in on request and they don’t fit or they don’t like them, I’m stuck with them.
RL: Keys. Are there any sorts you don’t keep?
Colin: We pretty much cover most sorts of keys. You’ll always get the odd sort of specialist one, specialist locks with serial numbers or coded numbers on which obviously we can’t carry, but apart from that, virtually anything, double glazing keys, mortise keys, and so on. We’re also agents for dry cleaning as well.
RL: Cost for average Yale type of key?
Colin: £2.50 and the mortise key £5.
RL: Well thank you very much for that Colin, that’s very helpful.