Sole Man, Cobbler of Cedaredge
February 20, 2013
The first thing you notice in Jody and Louise Segura's cobbler shop are the smells, which amount to a wonderful mix of leather, oil, wood stove smoke, and a tiny bit of shoe polish. Antique sewing machines are set up in every corner, and there are endless stacks of boot soles, threads, leather and tins on the shelves along with an astonishing variety of tools. Three saddles, freshly cleaned and repaired, have been set up close to the front door along with some finished footwear, each pair tied together by the laces and marked with the names of the owners.
Wearing a hand-crafted leather apron with large pockets, Jody peers carefully at an ancient pair of lace-up boots that have holes in the toes. "I can make a cover to go over this area to reinforce it," he says simply. "It'll cost about $25, but that's much less than what new ones would be." Reaching for a second pair, he pulls a loose sole away, holds it out and says, "This has been put together with glue. See, it's never even been stitched. A lot of the shoes that are made these days have been mass-produced and are meant to be thrown out." Rather than waste a customer's time and money trying to patch something together haphazardly, if an item isn't worth fixing the Seguras will tell the truth about it right up front.
Jody and Louise of Cedaredge, Colo., met 40 years ago after she'd spotted him hitchhiking as she was driving down St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans, La. "He looked kind of desperate," she said, smiling at the memory, and with his dark hair and handlebar mustache "he was cute, too" so she gave him a ride. (Truth is he was trying to get to the bank before it closed so he could cash a paycheck.) A few nights later, they went out for the very first time, and never looked back. During their first 10 years together, Jody was employed by the phone company, working on switching systems, while Louise had a good job in a nursing home. On the side, they bought, fixed up and sold Antebellum homes, yet both longed to get out of the city and do something entirely different.
"We'd been backpacking, hiking and camping out West during vacations," explained Jody, who retains a thick Cajun accent even after decades out of New Orleans, "and had fallen completely in love with the mountains." Constantly cross-crossing through Grand Junction, Colo., as they visited Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and parts of Colorado as well, the couple eventually decided to settle in small town Cedaredge, which they figured would be a good place to raise some children. They sold their Southern home, bought a log cabin outside of town, and with the funds that were left over went searching for a new way to make a living. Next thing the couple knew they were the owners of a shoe repair shop, and today the Seguras are part of only a handful of cobblers on the Western Slope (others are scattered throughout Hotchkiss, Durango, Cortez and Grand Junction) who are keeping a centuries-old skill alive.
"While looking for a business to buy, I heard about this and something went BING," Jody continued, snapping a finger behind his head. "It sounded like fun. The guy we bought it from stuck around for a while and showed us the basics, and then we found books on the subject and continued to practice. We also went around to the competitors, and some of the old-timers befriended us while sharing their tricks … and there are LOTS of tricks." Even during the learning process, the Seguras guaranteed their work then as well as now, which meant that initially, "some people got their stuff for free," he added, chuckling.
With the help of new friends they built a shop next door, and even though it has long since been outgrown they've decided to keep it since it's paid for. Louise primarily does the prep work (what she refers to as "little stuff") putting in zippers and taking care of dog chew damage. Jody repairs shoe and boot soles, and during hunting season they both work on the many torn panniers and canvas tents which are brought in, often with bear claw marks. In the winter, there are plenty of snowboard bags to repair and in the summer, due to sun rot, they get trampolines as well. "We'll do anything from leather to canvas to cordura, Louise says, "anything that can be fit onto the machines" — including the large and impressive 1940s Landis, which Jody pointed out is as old as himself.
Once a saddle maker had shared some of his skills, the couple started repairing saddles as well as making custom pistol holders and knife scabbards, which are popular items. When their now-grown children, Scarlett and Isaac were young, cleaning and oiling such gear — as well as cutting out patterns and making backpacks — became their way to earn spending money. "They're both good workers," Louise says proudly. "They even started making gifts for their friends here in the shop. Now that they're on their own, both have thanked us for teaching them how to work."
Although "Google keeps calling and trying to set us up with a website," the Seguras prefer word-of-mouth in their close-knit community. ("We ARE on Facebook," Jody admits, "even though I don't check the site very often.") On warm days, customers who pull up to the shop can find the double wooden doors wide open, with the couple working together in the sunshine. "We have a log cabin on five acres, two great kids and a business that is supporting us," he concludes. "It's a great life."
The Cobbler is located at 21764 R Road in Cedaredge, Colo. Contact they at (970) 856-3331. ❖