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  • Last modified 240 days ago (Dec. 29, 2018)

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Real sole-mates

Staff writer

Jim and Norma Horinek of Pilsen have worked together repairing shoes all of their married life and have operated Family Shoe Repair in Pilsen since 1994.

From the area covered, theirs is one of the few shoe-repair businesses in central Kansas.

They provide pickup and delivery services once a week in five cities — Abilene, Salina, Hutchinson, McPherson, and Newton.

Jim, 62, has a full-time job as a machinist at Agco Corporation in Hesston. He is looking forward to quitting his job and doing shoe repair full time.

“I think I can do this until I’m 75 or 80,” he said.

“We’ve been working our rear ends off lately,” Norma said.

She broke a finger in November and wore a brace for 3½ weeks, so she couldn’t do much.

She knows how to do everything but enjoys patching the most, using glue and a special stitching machine. Sometimes she repairs purses. Scuff marks on shoes are dyed and refinished.

Jim glues and sews on soles and heels. Finishing touches are made on a grinding machine with various stones for trimming and polishing.

The couple said when they get through with a shoe it is of better quality than when they started. They use leather and rubber products for repairs.

“We’re not just shoe repairers, we’re miracle workers,” Jim said. “There’s nothing we can’t do, but we have to make a fair wage, and some things are just too expensive.”

“If he doesn’t have an idea of how to fix something, I usually do,” Norma said.

“We probably do things we shouldn’t do because it takes so much thinking,” Jim added.

They have three finishing machines, two curved-needle, one straight-stitch, and one large-stitch machine. They acquired some of the equipment in 2016, when they bought out a closed shoe repair business in Salina.

Jim learned the shoe-repair trade when he took a course in saddle-making years ago. He and Norma were married in July 1982, and he taught Norma his skills. They were farming at Atwood and doing shoe repair on the side before they moved to Pilsen in 1992. They raised three children.

Norma said she enjoys working in the shop with Jim but stays busy with other interests when he’s not there. She likes gardening and putting up produce. Dairy goats provide milk.

“I like shoe repair,” Jim said. “I enjoy taking a pair of shoes and making them look like new.”

“And they last longer,” Norma added.

Last modified Dec. 29, 2018

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