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Tip-Toe offers tip top shoe repair

By Marcus Wright
Special to the Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — Andy Tip-Toe has been repairing shoes 45 of his 51 years. His grandfather taught his father, his father taught him and he is teaching his son-in-law. The shoe repair — or, more comprehensively, leather repair business — is an intergenerational tradition within the Tip-Toe family.

Tip-Toe brought it to the United States from Jamaica 22 years ago. That wasn’t the only thing he brought with him. “I learned a lot from my grandfather and father,” Tip-Toe said. “They (grandfather, father) had wisdom, knowledge, common sense. They taught me. I hope I learned.”

Tip-Toe is a small shop on Michigan Avenue near American Coney Island. It is located between abandoned store fronts. In summer months, shoe stands sit on each side of the door. Inside there is an old-style shoe-shine bench. Hats, handbags and other leather apparel adorn the walls.

Tip-Toe said the shoe repair business has changed. Shoe soles are no longer replaced; shoe heels are. Tip-Toe said today most shoes have rubber soles and don’t wear out as quickly as leather soles. “Water softens leather and thus degrades it,” Tip-Toe said. “Water doesn’t hurt rubber at all.”

Tip-Toe said heels are different. There is more wear and tear on heels because heels are the first to strike the ground, often at an angle. “I have to repair a lot of heels,” Tip-Toe said.

Tip-Toe does more than repair leather; the store sells shoes, too. “We sell to customers who need shoes,” Tip-Toe said. “We don’t sell to people who need brands.”

The leather repair business is “sometime good, sometime bad,” Tip-Toe said. He said that for him, it’s better to stay small. “When you’re small, you can pick and choose,” Tip-Toe said. “When you’re large you have to grab everything that comes along.”

Tip-Toe said he can repair any leather material a customer can bring into the shop. “If you can get it here, we can stitch it up,” Tip-Toe said.

Tip-Toe Repair, 127 Michigan Ave., 313.961.0066.

Contact Marcus Wright at

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