“My stepdad used to work for Mr. Bujoves, shining shoes. Every time I would go down there to see my stepdad, he would always give me candy. I was 10 years old and I said, ‘You know, do you think you would let me come down there and clean up and just shine shoes?’
He said, ‘Well, go and talk to Mr. Bujoves about it and most likely he'll say yes.’
So, I did. I went and asked and he told me that I could come in and help clean up and shine shoes.
I came in on a raise, because back then shining was only 15 cents and I came in on a quarter. Then you had the heels, soles, shining and all. I used to clean black hats there, too. We took them in from Schaefer’s Hat Store. We also worked on items from other stores. Jacobson’s when they were down there. We used to do their bridal and all. Redwing, we used to do their boots, we put new soles on the boots. Stride Rite, right next door back then, we used to do all their orthopedic work.
We even had a stand outside. It was neat because there was parallel parking downtown. There was Jacobson's which has gone out of business now. Then you had Sears and Roebuck downtown. You had Firestone which was over off of Washington. You had Richmond Brothers, LG Hayes, and S.S. Kresge, which have all gone out of business.
You had multiple stores downtown and all kinds of eateries. Town was lit up, and they would close off the streets sometimes and we would have the carnival downtown. In the summer, stores will have sidewalk sales where they would take everything outside and do business out front.
I worked there for a while and when I was about 28 years old, I said “You know what,I really love this. I said, “I would like to learn how to do this.”
And he said, “Well, it's easy. You don't try to run the machines. The machines run you.”
Like the big stitchers for your inner sole stitch, the stitching on the inside of the shoe, those machines will pull you in if you aren’t careful. Then you got your nail tech machines. Then you have your high-pressure machine. There are some that are better for men’s or women’s shoes. Then there is the finisher. So, there are many different machines for working on shoes.
And he said to me, “You know, there’s a lot to it.” And I told him I would like to learn.
He had me start by just putting on heels. Then after several years, he moved me up to pulling the heels off. It went on like that for years. I would say it took me about 20 years to learn the whole shoe. Just heals, soles, shine, dyes, zippers and coats. The whole nine yards. There's a lot to learn. I’m still learning.
“I didn't really want to start my own shop, initially. But he went on vacation and left me in the shop to do the work. When he came back, about a year later he asked me, ‘Hey, do you want this shop?’
That's when I was across the street on Franklin.
I told him no, that between the business and the building, it would be too much work. I told him if he wanted to keep the store in his name, he could retire and I would bring him half the profit, as long as he kept the store stocked with what I needed.
He didn’t want to do that, so he decided he was going to sell it. He sold the place to a guy. He told him, ‘Don't lose that guy over there, Morgan. If you lose Morgan, you could lose your whole business, because he knows what he's doing.’
And that's exactly what happened. One day, the new owner just didn't like it because everybody was coming in and asking for me and he couldn’t stand it.
Some things happened and I quit. Mr. Bujoves asked what I was going to do and I told him the shop has never been the same since you left. I said, ‘Perry, I’m done. I’m tired. I need to give it a rest and this is a dead end.’
But then I changed my mind and I decided maybe it was time for me to get out on my own. And that’s how I started.
I knew that I knew how to run the shop. I had no doubt about it and everybody was coming to me. I had work coming from Detroit and Flint. That was no problem. I can see the finished product before I even start and I love a challenge.
I had to figure out the things I didn’t know how to do, like all the expenses.
I did figure out I had to have a timeline. I’d figure out how many shoes I had to work on and tell customers to come back in two or three days. Sometimes I would be down here 14 to 15 hours a day. I would try to have those shoes done a day ahead of time.
I do the work just like it was mine. I don’t like flaws. I don’t believe in shortcuts. If I dye a pair of shoes, I strip them first, then I dye them. You can mix many different colors, and that's where art comes in.
Take working on soles. I blend my soles to where you taper it off if it’s a half sole. That way you can’t tell where I even started the new one and it looks like a full sole, but it’s a half sole.
There used to be a ton of shoes that you had to stitch. Now, you got these shoes where they are like throwaways. You see a lot of synthetics. You used to be able to repair a lot of things, you could put a new sole on. Now, they make them where you throw them away or you can't repair them. Or you’ve got to get a soul to fit just perfect because it's just glued in.
If you bring one of those shoes to me, it can be repaired. You can replace that shoe, but it costs you. I can take that same shoe and flip it to repair it. I can unstitch them, repair them, and put them back together.
To be good at anything you have to want to do it. Then you have to have patience. Patience is a virtue. Then you have to not have a specific time in mind for it to happen, that's where your patience comes in.
You will mess up, especially as you learn. Sometimes I would find more problems as I broke the shoe down to fix it, but I wouldn’t tell the customer about that because I didn’t know until I had the shoe broken down. I can’t charge them for that, but I have to fix it because my work has to be quality when it leaves here.
When I got into this, I had to keep my prices low. Sometimes people don’t have a lot of money and I want everybody to be able to look good. I'm thinking about everyone and God will provide. It’s really God that got me here. I think there is a time and a season for everything and that goes back to patience. Things don't always happen when you want them to happen, I’ve learned that after being in this business for 55 years.
A big lesson I’ve learned over those years is that you can survive. You got to put it in God's hands. If you believe, you can conquer and move mountains. You should believe in things you cannot see. If you believe it, you can bring it into reality.
So many things can be fixed. A lot of people think you have to put a new zipper in something. No, you don't, not if you know how to repair a zipper and repair the teeth. It’s just like with a car, if your motor goes out, you have to go to someone that knows how to fix it. We have to support these crafts, otherwise we will lose that knowledge.
A couple times I was in the Saginaw News. I hung that article on the wall. My old boss, Mr. Bujoves, who is 92 years old, he said, “I’m so proud of you. You’ve got a gift.”
And then he said, ‘I noticed every time that you do an article or anything you go and put my name in there, too.’
I said, ‘Let me tell you something. I would not be here today if it was not for you,’
I cannot forget that foundation. You can't forget the path that brought you here. I need to give the props to the people who helped and made it happen for me.”