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Of the countless shoe repair shops in DC where you can have the heel on your stiletto recapped, the sole of your boot replaced, or just get your shoes shined and generally spiffed up, I’ll bet that you’d be hard pressed to find a place quite like Philip’s Shoe Repair in Petworth.
Since 1924 folks have been getting their shoes fixed up at 808 Upshur Street, and in all that time there have only been two owners. Up until 1966 Philip Calabro was living in Italy and working as a specialty orthopedic shoe maker. When he came to the U.S. he worked, sponsored by Mr. Dominic Cicala (the original owner), in the shop for 2 or 3 years until Cicala was ready to retire and Philip bought him out and became the owner himself.
Over the past 42 years Philip, and his shop, has become a fixture in the Petworth Community. He and his wife, who usually sticks around the store all afternoon to keep him company, have developed close relationships with almost all of their customers as well as the neighboring business owners. “Our customers are like family to me,” he says. He rarely gives out order tickets, since he knows almost everyone by name or by face – including Mayor Fenty! Mrs. Calabro told me that not only do they love their customers, but the customers love them too. “They look out for us,” she says, as she told me about a day when Philip had a doctor appointment so she agreed to run the shop for the afternoon while he was gone. A regular customer came in and upon seeing that she was alone in the store, insisted on staying with her until she closed up shop and went home for the evening.
The Calabro’s relationship with the neighborhood is clearly a result of their good natured, friendly attitude towards the people of Petworth, but Philip was sure to tell me that Mr. Cicala was a well liked and respected business owner as well. He was especially proud to point out that in 84 years the glass window and door of the shop have never once been damaged. Ed. Note: Knock wood, knock wood. Continues after the jump.
Petworth and beyond, people seem to really love this place. Many former residents who have moved further into the suburbs still remain loyal to the shop. And it’s not just because Philip and his wife are as so sweet, or because they get to share the vegetables Philip grows in his garden every summer! His customers trust his work. And, even though he doesn’t make shoes anymore, he still does a little bit of specialty orthopedic work, like making lifts and cutting heels for customers.
The inside of the store is very cool as well – kind of like a little museum. Philip’s old sewing machines are on display in the front of the store, along with maps of Italy, some old school signs, and a case full of shoe polish and various shoe care accessories. Prices vary on a case by case basis, but they try their best to keep it reasonable and fair. It always makes me so happy to see places like this, where the owners love what they do and make a genuine effort to connect with their community, and their clients. If you still don’t understand what this “beautiful life” PoP is always talking about is, I highly recommend you take a trip over to Philip’s Shoe Repair!