‘I go out of my way to help and if you do that then that separates you’ – Potters Bar shoe shop owner reflects on over 30 years
- Credit: Archant
After 38 years in the business, a Potters Bar shop owner reflects how he got into repairing shoes.
Potters Heel Bar’s Kyri Nicolaou cryptically asserts: “I was in the shoe game and the rest is history,” but after some probing the WHT found out that he started off at his father’s Finsbury Park factory.
The family-run business made the uppers for Clark’s mens shoes with a staff of around 50 and this brought him into the work at a young age.
“But Clark’s were the first to move their work abroad to Portugal,” Kyri said. “It was a big shock at the time.
“You used to have this father and son or wife teams during the 80s. And most of the time people stayed in the family business.”
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After moving to Potters Bar, Kyri opened his shoe shop 32 years ago, doing a slightly different trade than his father and carrying out shoe repairs, key cutting, engraving, along with selling Loake shoes, leather goods, sundries, laces and suitcases.
But he reflects the industry has changed a lot – more so in light of COVID-19.
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Whereas Kyri used to attract many people who worked in London or who were going out and needed their shoes repaired, shined or new accessories, now there is less demand.
“I still have my regulars,” he said. “I go out of my way to help and if you do that then that separates you.”
Kyri will order in new material – if a customer does not mind waiting – so he can make the right changes such as making a heel higher for someone with high arches on their trainers.
He said: “There is not much of a service industry left and the internet has had a big effect.”
And coronavirus has brought its own challenges as the talk of another lockdown increases.
“If it was for a week or two then it would be fine, but if was anything like last time I don’t there would be many left.”
He thinks many shops are still reeling from the first lockdown, which saw businesses closed for several months.
“I’m just grateful for whoever is coming in,” he said.
Kyri also said he occasionally gets some footballers come in but refused to name them, as “everyone is entitled to some privacy”.
His shop also became a film set in 2017 when the Cormoran Strike series was being shot by the BBC.