Real Heroes: Gary from Shoekey – The Best Shoe Repair Shop in the World

Inspired by Chris, the inspirational cabbie, I had made up my mind that I would blog about ‘inspirational people that I had the good fortune to meet. Gary was a ‘shoe in’ for the post. I thought I’d call the series ‘Real Heroes’. I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to do – as often as I remember when I meet inspirational folk.

Over to Gary now – I met Gary two months ago. The sole of the black leather shoe I’d bought from home in the summer was beginning to chip away. He took a  look for a moment and said – ‘75 pounds sir.’

‘75 pounds?!’ I spluttered. That was more than what I’d paid for the shoe. That said, I absolutely loved the look of the shoe. Tough call.

‘You see, the leather used in this shoe is very low quality. Our material is the best in the world.’

‘What if I find better material then?’

‘Well, sir, then I give you your money back and start buying the material you found.’

Needless to say, I was sold. Gary fixed it and did a brilliant job. He did little things like remember my name when I came to collect it a week later.

I had a small issue with my shoe yesterday thanks to the old rubber heel part. Gary immediately fixed it free of charge as he saw it as his responsibility. I joked about whether he was giving me the best rubber heel in the world.

‘You know, when others go to trade fairs, they walk around asking ‘how much does this cost?’ till they find the cheapest material they can find.
We walk around asking for the best – we look for hardness, flexibility and the like. And once we find the best, we work our prices around them.’

We spent the next 10 minutes chatting away about various things. Gary has been in the business for 35 years and in his current shop for 20 years located right outside Liverpool Street Station in London. His is essentially a family business and his current team comprises of his wife and his eldest daughter’s boy friend. 

And over time, he has trained most of his family and many others – all of whom have gone on to start their own shops.

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(This time, I remembered to take a picture! That’s Gary, on the left)

We spoke of the importance of positivity and doing your best and he shared some of the things he believed.

Most of all, he gave me a wonderful gift – he scribbled ‘Desiderata’ on a piece of paper and recommended I read it. His favourite poem. I did. And I can see why..

Panterosa, a commenter here, had a wonderful line about inspiration. She said ‘Remember that inspiration is among the post powerful thing you can do.’

Gary more than inspired me with his passion to stay positive and be the best in the world. We need more Gary’s in every field.

If you ever pass by Liverpool Street Station, I hope you pay Gary a visit. If you live in London, work close by and need your shoe fixed, that’s of course a no brainer. As the Shoe Key t-shirts say –

‘Shoe key.. because time wounds all heels’

Thanks Gary, and team!


Desiderata by Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.