One would think that after 62 years in business, shoe repair expert Pasquale DiTerlizzi could afford to slow down a little. But since autumn, the owner of Pasquale & Sons Shoe Repair on Upton Avenue in Toledo has become busier than ever.
With the nation mired in recession, people have decided it's far thriftier - and cheaper - to mend shoes, purses, and other items rather than buy new ones.
"Ever since Wall Street collapsed," Mr. DiTerlizzi said, "we started noticing that we were getting everything in, from gloves to purses to suitcases, to even an old shaving kit."
From a steady business, Pasquale's is now getting close to 10 to 15 additional customers a day, Mr. DiTerlizzi said.
"We can't fix everything they're bringing in here," he said. "We're getting backpacks and those little belly packs people used to buy and throw away.
"And purses - man, all the purses. We'd actually like to see more shoes, but there's been a big increase in odds and ends coming in," he said.
Mr. DiTerlizzi isn't alone.
"It's definitely a nationwide trend," said Randy Lipson, a board member of the Shoe Service Institute of America, an industry association made up of 7,000 shoe repair shops, wholesalers, and industry suppliers.
"One of the things with a small industry like ours is you gain a lot of friends around the country, and when you talk to them they tell you this is happening everywhere," said
Mr. Lipson, who owns three shoe repair shops in the St. Louis area. He said his business has increased nearly 12 percent since September.
"I just got off the phone with a friend in Sweden and he's very busy right now," he added.
At Macino & Sons Shoe Service on Sylvania Avenue in Toledo, the number of customers has increased by about five or six every week in the last several months, said sales clerk Seneca Weirich.
"With shoes, it varies," she said. "People who purchase expensive shoes have a tendency to want to get them fixed."
But recently the store has had an influx of other items: luggage, golf bags, purses, backpacks.
A similar increase has been occurring at the Redwing Shoe Repair in Maumee, said owner Daniel Georgevich. His business has gone up 30 percent since September, he said.
"We've been quite a bit busier, what with the economy. Repairs are way up," he said. "There are lots of shoes you can still fix."
Mr. Lipson, of the Shoe Service Institute, based in North Brookfield, Mass., said he thinks a big reason consumers are seeking repairs rather than buying new is media coverage.
"It increases awareness and it makes sense to a lot of people. For those that have been fixing their shoes all along, it reinforced their decisions. And for those that haven't been fixing their shoes it has really helped create the awareness," Mr. Lipson said.
However, the increased demand for repairs hasn't extended to all products.
Appliance repair shops haven't had much of a boost in business, mainly because of industry changes that occurred a few decades ago, said Matt Janowiecki, owner of Ace Appliance in Toledo.
Most appliance manufacturers now offer very low-cost items that last only a few years, or high-end items that last several years.
"The newer appliances are so cost-effective, they're almost disposable," he said.
Mr. Janowiecki said appliances like washers and dryers once had five-year factory warranties. But now, he said, most low-end appliances have only a 30-day warranty.
"If anyone spends over $450 on an item, they will get them repaired," he said. "But below that, they throw them away.
"They actually engineer them to break down after three years," Mr. Janowiecki said.
Contact Jon Chavez at: