Business Matters: Michal’s Fixing Shoes for Decades
In downtown Osseo, there’s a shop that’s about as old school as it gets. Yet inside there’s delicate skill and craftmanship to fix shoes, boots and many other items.
Michal’s Boots and Shoe Repair
Inside Michal’s Boots and Shoe Repair, LuAnn Miller has a purse she wants adjusted. Michael Zastawny has just the answer.
“Yeah, this is real easy,” said Zastawny as he uses a tool to punch a couple holes into Miller’s leather purse. “Better? Now try the other way.”
At 71 years old, Zastawny knows a thing or two about fixing things. About the only thing he hasn’t fixed is the name on his store.
“Back in 1962, they made an error on the spelling. And they forgot the ‘e,’ so we left it that way,” he said.
Zastawny can thank a sign company for that one, opting against the hassle of getting a new sign. But unlike another lighted sign that reads ‘Shoe Repair,’ he fixes more than shoes.
“I got jackets and chaps and Harley Davidson vests, just all kinds of stuff that I do here,” said Zastawny.
Not Easy Work
Shoe and boot repair is not easy work. Zastawny shows us what it takes to make a pair of Tony Lama Boots new again.
“So the first thing you do is rip off the heel,” said Zastawny, showing us how he goes about the process.
Zastawny says he treats every pair of boots like they’re his own. It’s a testament to the work ethic he learned from his Austrian parents. And having a dad who taught him everything there is to know about fixing shoes.
“My dad, that’s what he did for a living,” said Zastawny. “I took it on and showed him different ways of making it easier,” he laughed.
While his work ethic hasn’t changed, the shoe repair industry has. When he started his business in 1962, shoe repair stores were everywhere.
“Oh, there was one on every corner,” Zastawny recalled.
Now he estimates there’s about 10 to 12 places like his left in the Twin Cities area.
“Young people don’t take care of their shoes. And they’re in a throw-away society,” said Zastawny, who notes there are exceptions.
Attitudes, Materials Change
But attitudes and materials have changed too. Zastawny says cheaper materials make problems harder to fix.
“If they made stuff like the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, it would be real easy. People would be happier too with their stuff,” he said.
It’s also not easy to find help. His only employee is himself.
“There are drawbacks of being your own boss, you can’t fire yourself,” he smiled.
But being a one-man shop means he he usually doesn’t have time to clown around. With one exception.
“A lady came in with a clown. The shoes were about an inch and a half big. She wanted me to put a Birkenstock sole on those shoes,” said Zastawny about the small clown he fixed up.
It’s dedication like that his customers can appreciate. Zastawny counts more than 19,000 since he began his business.
“You don’t find guys like him anywhere,” said customer LuAnn Miller. “Someone should take it over that’s as talented as him.”
“I wish somebody could,” whispered Zastawny.