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A Charlottetown cobbler’s long career

Currie’s Shoe Repair owner David Currie stands in his shop on Kent Street, posing with an award he recently received. Currie has been working at the family’s 116-year-old business for six decades.
Currie’s Shoe Repair owner David Currie stands in his shop on Kent Street, posing with an award he recently received. Currie has been working at the family’s 116-year-old business for six decades. - Mitsuki Mori

David Currie, who owns Currie’s Shoe Repair, has been working in the business for six decades

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

David Currie has been cobbling shoes for six decades.

The Charlottetown native and owner of Currie’s Shoe Repair began working for the family business in the late 1950s after returning to the Island from Ontario where he served in the Air Force.

The 80-year-old cobbler’s grandfather, Frank Currie, opened the shoe repair shop on Queen Street in 1903.

Two years ago, Currie relocated the shop to his grandfather’s original homestead on Kent Street, just around the corner from the business’ original location.

“My grandparents lived and died here, and my father was born here,” Currie told The Guardian last month from his shop.

Currie’s decision to get into the business of repairing shoes was simple.

“My father and my grandfather did it, so it’s a family thing.”

Before getting into his life-long career, Currie dabbled in another trade when he worked for Island Tel digging post holes.

“It was hard work. And then the old fellas would tell us we didn’t know what work was. We’d be pulling wires through the Miscouche swamp and the flies would eat the face off ya,” he said. “It was a good experience.”

Back in its hay day, the shoe repair shop had about six employees and was always busy.

“In the old store, it would just be non-stop,” said Currie. “Things would slow down a bit in the summer and then Labour Day weekend it would just open up with a vengeance. All the kids with school bags and stuff like that. They’d be lined up from the front of our store all the way around the corner with repairs.”

But times have changed.

“The work’s not there anymore. Years ago, you’d be going seven nights a week, and everything was fixable. But now people come in with stuff and it’s not worth fixing so I tell them to take it back.”

“I’ll work until I can’t work. I mean, what would I do today now, just sit home?”

- David Currie

Currie said one of the things he’s noticed about the shoes today is that the materials they are made from aren’t what they used to be. Where at one time the soles were made from leather, for example, today they are made from plastic.

“A girl might come in here today with six pairs of shoes and maybe only two are repairable,” he said, adding about 90 per cent of his clientele is of the female persuasion.

“If it wasn’t for the ladies, I’d be up the crick.”

At one time, the shop provided tailoring and worked on “everything”, including harness work and fixing RCMP boots.

While the work might not be there like it once was, Currie still has customers looking to get shoes or purses repaired.

“There’s always something to do.”

He’s now the store’s lone employee.

“My wife is only allowed right here,” he said, pointing to the customer counter. “She gets in there and gets moving things around and stuff, cleaning, saying ‘the place is a mess, look at the dirt’ and I say, ‘it’s a work shop, it’s not a restaurant’.”

Downtown Charlottetown Inc. recently presented Currie and his wife with its President’s Award for their contribution to the city.

Currie said when he received the award, he thanked his wife for pushing him out the door for 60 years and getting him to work.
“I guess they just gave me that for hanging around,” he said. “They figured, ‘you know, we gotta give this guy something’.”

As for retiring, Currie said he’s not planning to any time soon.

“I’ll work until I can’t work. I mean, what would I do today now, just sit home?”

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