Shoe repairman says there’s one thing he can’t fix

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Brady's Shoe Repair has been a South Parkway fixture in Huntsville for more than 30 years.  Steve Brady, 58, is a third generation cobbler. He’s following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather who came to America from Ireland in 1905. “By the time I was 13, I was a full time shoemaker doing everything that my father and grandfather were doing,” Steve said.

He’s been perfecting his craft for 45 years using many of the same tools as those who helped shape his career. “The equipment whether it was foot powered or electrical has not changed at all over the last 100 years,” he said. But one thing has changed. “Unfortunately, it's a dying art,” Steve told me. “There are fewer and fewer people coming into the shoe repair business.” He's one of three cobblers in Huntsville.

Until recently, Steve also made custom boots. His list of customers reads like a who’s who of country music. I asked him to drop a few names. He smiled and said, “George Jones, Conway Twitty, Hank Williams Junior, Merle Haggard. That was a lot of fun."

Even though he’s made and repaired hundreds of thousands of shoes, there’s one thing Steve Brady can’t fix. ”I've been diagnosed with a terminal problem. It's going to take me out one day,” he said. “I'm not sure how long that’s going to be and I have to look forward to what’s going to happen to my customers. I worry about that.” He’s more worried about his customers than he is his own health. “Yeah, I am,” he said. “They've put a lot of faith in me throughout the years and I want to be able to return that to them with whoever takes over for me now.”

He’s looking for an apprentice so he can pass down his craft. “Somebody who wants to love this business as much as I do,” He said. He’s looking for someone who will one day soon buy and take over the business he built. Until then, he’ll continue taking care of the people who have been taking care of him all these years. He handed a customer a receipt and said, “I do appreciate you. You have a great day and come back and see us.”

Steve Brady wants his customers to know, he’s not retiring and closing the business.  He’s just trying to plan ahead and make good use of the time he has left. Steve knows the clock is ticking. He’s praying his time won’t run out before he finds someone to fill his shoes.