BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – As any shoe repair expert might tell you, they don’t make shoes like they used to. And as fans of Quality Shoe Repair might say, they don’t make shoe repair shops like they used to either.
And now that Bakersfield cobbler’s shop – in the Home Goods shopping center at California Avenue and Stockdale Highway – is closing after 35 years at that location.
Mike Hinkle learned the trade from his father and then passed those skills along to his son Mike. But a year and a half ago the younger Mike Hinkle took his proficiency with footwear to the local office of a national orthotics company.
“The plan was for him to take over the business,” the elder Mike Hinkle said. “Covid, I think, kinda changed some of his thinking about owning your own business.”
Hinkle understood his son’s decision, but then his lease came up for renewal. What Hinkle really wanted was a one-year extension but the Los Angeles-based property management company, CNA Enterprises, insisted on a minimum of three years.
“Yeah, I really wanted one year at a time so I could see how everything went, with how I felt with health,” he said. “Can I keep going a little bit longer?”
Now everything must go, including workbenches and some vintage shoe repair equipment. He’s keeping a turn-of-the-last-century cast iron shoe stretcher, which was once used to teach prison inmates the art of shoe repair. A display case is being donated to the Norbertine Sisters convent in Tehachapi. Six or eight bags of shoes will be donated to charity if customers don’t pick them up by the end of the year– and he’s been calling and calling.
Mike Hinkle was born to his trade. His father Harry Hinkle was a cobbler first in Long Beach and then in Bakersfield, where in the mid-1970s he bought a place called Quality Shoe Repair at 18th and Chester, next door to a restaurant then called Tiny’s and now called Momma Mia. Mike took over his father’s business in the ‘80s, and later worked at George Waheed’s Ye Olde Cobbler Shop, which is also now a Mama-themed restaurant, Mama Roomba.
But now it comes to an end, and all that is left to do is thank three generations of faithful customers.
“It’s been great over the years,” he said. “Wonderful customers coming in … and just saying thanks and good luck on your next move.”
Now, if he could just take care of that last but of unfinished business: Mrs. McGillicuddy, your shoes are ready. Hurry up! You only have till Dec. 31.