“I am not famous, I am Notorious,” the sign in Dan’s shop says. Dan Ruger fixes shoes, an almost lost art in America along with a shoe shop’s rich smell of leather, whirring machines and racks of neatly boxed shoes.
Dan learned his craft from a California Armenian. After a naysayer said he would never make it as a master cobbler, Dan moved to Utah without a penny in his pocket and landed jobs at Broadway and ZCMI shoe repair shops. Since then, he moved to the Millcreek area where he has been cobbling since the ’80s. During the recession, many businesses failed, but Dan’s thrived since many people had shoes repaired instead of buying new ones. A perfectionist, Dan says his biggest challenge is getting all his work done in a timely way.
Able to make Birkenstock sandals from scratch, musical instrument cases and horse tack (bridle and saddle), Dan says the old-fashioned shoes with higher quality material and more stitching hold up the best. Customers appreciate Dan making their shoes look new. The reasons they get their shoes repaired over buying new ones are that the old ones are broken in, have sentimental value, the color matches a certain dress.
Dan smiles as he says there’s an enchantment to being a cobbler and loves the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, “The Shoemaker and the Elves,” the story saying that the shoemaker’s children go barefoot because he’s too busy making shoes for customers. His wife, however, has a closetful of shoes.
Millcreek Shoe Rebuilders is located at 2343 East 3300 South.
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