Coast man finds shoe business booming

Published 2:56 pm Thursday, September 28, 2006

Kenny Recore took down the sign promising same-day half-sole service from the window of his shoe-repair shop because he’s too swamped to keep the promise.

“September is always my slowest time,” he said. “This is shaping up to be the best September and may be the best month ever. It’s crazy. I’ve never seen it like this.”

There weren’t many shoe-repair shops before Hurricane Katrina but now Recore is working even harder six days a week to keep up with the worn-out dress shoes, purses with broken straps and dilapidated sandals dropped off by old and new customers.

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Recore estimates his work load has tripled since he reopened Kenny’s Shoe and Boot Repair two weeks after the August 2005 storm. “The phone rings off the hook,” he said.

And the traffic is brisk. Customers are driving to his Pass Road shop from Diamondhead to Ocean Springs to drop off wingtips, high heels and cowboy boots. They include bikers, businessmen and casino cocktail waitresses who have been pouring in to have their stiff new uniform shoes outfitted with rubber soles so they won’t slip or hurt their feet.

In the span of about 30 minutes on a recent afternoon, five customers came in looking to lengthen the life of their favorite footwear and accessories.

Mary McVey of Long Beach described herself and her husband, Joseph, as regular customers.

“He’s a wonderful person. I’ve never seen him down, and the work is excellent,” she said, dropping off an alligator purse for rejuvenation.

Recore says his nonstop schedule had his wife, Donna, jokingly questioning his whereabouts.

He smiles telling the story but never quits working, tapping in a new heel tip or applying polish to a newly soled wing tip or sanding down a sole on a finishing machine behind the counter of his tiny shop.

Recore, a D’Iberville native, was 15 when he started working on orthopedic shoes at Hill Brace Co. in Gulfport.

“I knew I liked it and would stick to it,” he said. “It’s inside and not out in the heat.”

He eventually bought a small repair store in Edgewater Mall and then moved to a spot nearby in 1995. He’s been in his present location since 1998.

As a side business, Recore, a biker himself, sells biker leather jackets, vests, gloves and hats, as well as leather boots and purses. He also still works on orthopedic shoes.

An occupational habit is watching shoe trends. High heels are back, “which is good because they wear out quickly,” he said. “They come in bunches.”

Not surprisingly, Recore continuously checks out what kind of shoes everybody’s wearing. “I can’t help it,” he said.

His personal preference is sneakers with shorts in the summer and cowboy boots with long pants in the winter.

“I don’t even own a pair of dress shoes,” he said. “I wore cowboy boots with a tux when I got married.”