San Francisco is a city rich in history. Case in point: Sunset Shoe Repair, an Inner Sunset institution that's been in continuous operation for more than 110 years (making it the oldest business in the neighborhood, that we know of).
Sunset Shoe Repair is currently owned and operated by its fifth owner, Tony Kamel, who immigrated to the United States from Lebanon in 2005. Growing up with his family’s shoe repair business, Kamel learned the trade at an early age and has been in the business for 25 years.
After settling down in America, Kamel opened a shoe repair shop in a Concord mall before making his way to Sunset Shoe Repair several years later. Before he took over, the shop was owned by the Salvador family—Raymundo Salvador acquired the shop in 1968 and his son Glen Salvador took over in 1985. Glen Salvador passed away in the summer of 2013, but during under his stewardship, he helped solidify Sunset Shoe Repair’s status as a local institution before Kamel took the reins.
Kamel talked to Hoodline about the care he takes in his work, in which customers entrust him with their often expensive leather shoes, often worth upwards of a thousand dollars. “Especially in this business, you have to know what you are doing. You have to know the business. If you do a good job, and you know what you’re doing, you’ll be successful. If not, nobody comes back.”
In addition to shoe repairs, Sunset Shoe Repair is a full-service leather shop that offers repair and restoration services for all leather goods. Customers may also order custom leather items, such as wallets and handbags, which are handcrafted by Kamel.
The demand for shoe repair is still apparent, but the craft seems to be a dying art. “Nobody learns this business anymore,” Kamel said. “In five years, six [shoe repair] shops closed here in the area. The new generation, nobody wants to learn.”
Despite spending approximately 60 hours a week in his store, Kamel is anything but burned out. “I love my job. I love to do things. I don’t like to stay home. For what?”
Sunset Shoe Repair (415 661-8259) is located at 621 Irving St. and is open Monday to Saturday from 9am to 7pm.
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