Downtown shoe repair icon retiring, closing store
Reginald Cousin has perfected his work over the years and said he can fix just about anything dealing with leather.
A man who has been repairing shoes in Chattanooga for more than 40 years is retiring tomorrow.
Reginald Cousin, 73, has worked at Kenton Shoe Shop on Broad Street since 1975. His passion for fixing shoes began while taking a shoe repair class while a student at Howard High School in 1961.
"Teacher told me I was good at it and put me to work in his shoe shop," Cousin said. "That was the very first shoe shop I worked in."
When he first began, Cousin was getting paid $1 an hour and earning $48 a week. He's maintained the shop since '75 while retaining the same 50 or so customers since that time.
"I get customers all the way from Monteagle, Tennessee all the way to Gadsden, Alabama," he said.
He's perfected his work over the years and said he can fix just about anything dealing with leather. He also fixes cowboy boots, purses and golf bags, just to name a few. He said one of the strangest things he's ever done is turn someone's cowboy boots into golf cleats. He said a $1,400 pair of alligator shoes was the most expensive pair of shoes he's ever repaired.
Cousin said when he first started, there were 11 shoe repair shops in the downtown area. Now only his shop remains in downtown Chattanooga.
His building will soon be under new ownership and he figured now is a good time to go. He had moved once about ten years ago from his Cherry Street location and said he wasn't interested in moving again.
"I love what I'm doing and if I wasn't so old right now, I'd be still doing it," he said. "I have worked all my life but I think it's about time that I retire."
Cousin said he's going to miss working the most. He's been doing it his entire life and has never taken a sick day.
He said he hopes to eventually sell his equipment to his nephew who would in turn re-open the shop but in a different location.
Cousin will officially close the doors to Kenton Shoe Shop Friday, April 29 at 5 p.m. He says he plans to spend his time off playing golf and working on his home.