Chum Cho points to the different machines in his shop.

There’s no business like sole business

After 41 years, Cho selling Winslow shoe repair shop

The soul of shoe repair on Bainbridge Island is calling it quits after 41 years.

Chum Cho, 72, is retiring and selling Winslow Shoe and Repair, which opened in town 72 years ago.

Cho is somewhat sad about leaving his home and moving to Tacoma to live with his son, one of three children.

“This town is very nice,” he said, adding it’s been very supportive of his business. “I have a lot of good friends and customers here. I love it here.”

While fewer cobblers are in business nowadays, Cho said the people of Bainbridge often buy high-quality shoes that they want repaired rather than to throw them away. That’s why he was able to say in business so long.

Cho came to the U.S. years ago knowing little English. He joined the U.S. Army and had his first career there. He had a friend in Bremerton who had a shoe repair shop, so when Cho left the military he decided to follow in his friend’s footsteps.

“He said there was nothing to it,” Cho said of shoe repair, smiling as if to say that wasn’t quite true. “I learned from him.”

Cho bought Winslow Shoe Repair, then moved it to its current location at 181 Winslow Way nine years ago when the previous building was torn down.

One popular trend recently that Chow has been part of is dying shoes different colors so they look new. He also does all types of leatherwork, like on purses and belts. While many of his machines are older they still work. So he can do all types of repairs on work or dress shoes, like stitching and polishing, along with replacing heels and soles.

Some families have been coming there for decades.“One woman” came here as a child, he said, and “now she’s grown up.”

Chum Cho uses a grinder on a shoe.
Chum Cho works on the heel of a shoe.
An old industrial Singer sewing machine.
Another old machine in the shop.
Chum Cho staples a shoe.
Chum Cho welcomes customers behind a plexiglass shield during COVID-19.
Even with the signage the store can be a little tough to find.

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