The Tovar Shoe Repair shop in downtown Flossmoor puts its best foot forward — even for customers far from Flossmoor.
The Tovar Shoe Repair shop in downtown Flossmoor puts its best foot forward in offering customers services ranging from the rehabilitation of footwear and purses to custom-made products.
Customers of the shop, at 1035 Sterling Ave., are able to suggest ideas to its owners — Ricardo and Shareece Tovar — and also have the option to purchase shoes that are already designed.
No matter the distance.
Shirley Duhart Green, of Atlanta, Ga., has been a customer of Tovar Shoe Repair for more than 10 years.
After finding the shop’s website, she sent photos through email of the shoes she desired and the rest was history.
Green, 68, received her first pair of shoes hand-delivered when the Tovars visited relatives in Atlanta.
“I loved them,” Green said. “And when I saw them [the shoes] I knew someone would have to bury me in shoes like these.”
Her shoes were a special pair that she said made life easier.
Green is living with polio. She explained her feet are two different sizes and all of her shoes require braces.
She said it was always difficult to find shoes that matched her professional clothing, but the custom-made shoes changed everything.
“It enhanced my feeling about my appearance in reference to being smart and sharp,” Green said. “I was able to match my clothes and they weren’t the normal, ugly orthopedic shoes. It made a big difference for me.”
Ricardo Tovar said it’s not easy to make a custom-made shoe. After making shoes three decades, he explained there are many skills that are vital.
He learned his craft by watching his father make shoes, and began working in the trade when he was only 13 years old. Before he knew it, he was making shoes by himself. He and his family eventually started making 40 pairs of shoes per week to sell and later began to rehabilitate footwear.
“You have to love doing it,” he said. “It takes a lot of attention to detail and patience to make a good shoe.”
And it doesn’t happen overnight. Tovar said designing the shoe and letting it dry can take as long as one week from start to finish.
First, he gets a shoe last — a mechanical form that has a shape similar to that of a human foot — and makes a blueprint pattern.
“Then I cut the leather for the upper and the lining, then stitch them together,” he said.
After the stitching is done, he said he prepares the leather sole and the heel for the shoes that need to be trimmed to fit the design. Once everything is dry, he takes out the last and puts the insoles in. For the final touch, everything is cleaned and conditioned for the customer.
Regardless of the hard work, he stressed his main goal is to makes sure the customer is very happy and satisfied.
“We’re very friendly and we like to create a family environment,” he said.
Green said she knows the Tovars have achieved that environment.
“The way they’ve accommodated me, they’re like family to me now,” she said. “I think they are wonderful, moral people. I feel very fortunate to have met them.”
Shareece Tovar said watching the intricacies of her husband’s work, followed by the customer’s reaction, is indescribable.
“The customers are always elated and blown away,” she said. “And that’s what is most important. It’s about the customer.”