Dennis Erickson walking away from The Shoe Clinic
If you need your shoes repaired, better get it done now, as The Shoe Clinic in Forest Grove will be closing at the end of the month.
After 33 years, owner Dennis Erickson is laying down his tools and taking some well-deserved time to visit family and work in the yard.
"My hands are giving out," Erickson said. Pointing to his wrist in a brace, he says, "I've got tendinitis, and I am calling it arthritis in my hands. I've been at this for 40 years."
The Shoe Clinic's original owner, David Heinz, opened his shop on April 1, 1959, and after his death, Erickson bought the business from Heinz's widow, Helene, and re-opened The Shoe Clinic on April 1, 1985.
Erickson began work as a shoe repairer in Eugene. He had been out of work for over a year when a man at his church offered him a living wage watching the till and keeping an eye on his shop if Erickson would commit to four years to learn the trade. As it turned out, "he sold the shop after a year, and I trained the new owner," Erickson recalled.
In his 33 years on Main Street, Erickson has seen businesses come and go and marveled at "the mushroom of apartments being built right now," but what really gets his attention is the increase in traffic. Looking out the front window of his shop, he can see the difference.
"It's even more of a nightmare than 25 years ago, when I was putting up Christmas decorations in downtown Forest Grove," Erickson remarked.
Erickson has seen changes in shoes, too, and not for the better.
He said, "Shoes have gone down in quality, and there is a flood of imports from overseas. You can buy a new pair of shoes for less than I can repair them."
The best part about being a shoe repairman, Erickson said, is "just being able to see what can be done, to see the resurrection of a shoe so it is wearable again."
The worst part?
"My wife loved to buy shoes, but I would fix her shoes, so she didn't need to buy new ones," Erickson quipped. "Though she did like the Minnetonka moccasins I sold, and she had lots of those."
Although his business is called The Shoe Clinic, Erickson said, "I liked working with my hands. I liked the creativity of fixing things and not everything I repaired was shoes."
Erickson recalled the most unusual thing he repaired: "A customer brought in a tanned cougar hide. The mouth was open and the tail was stuffed. The stitched-on tail was coming loose, and I sewed it up."
Glancing into the back of his shop, one can see boots, shoes and a leather jacket all waiting for repairs. They'll be among the last items that Erickson fixes up before closing his doors.
Mary Johnson of Forest Grove came in to see if she could have anything done to her shoes to make them tighter. Erickson suggested insoles, and as she was leaving, she said, "I'll miss you. You always do a very nice job."
Erickson replied, "I'm ready."
There will not be a new owner of The Shoe Clinic. Asked where to get shoes repaired after he is gone, Erickson said, "You will have to go to points east." He suggests Vanek's Shoe Repair in Beaverton.
The property has been sold, and Erickson thinks a hair salon will occupy the space. He has sold some of his equipment but is able to use it until closing.
To send off The Shoe Clinic, Erickson's son and daughter-in-law from Aloha have had a banner made to put up on the façade. Erickson's youngest daughter and her new baby will fly out to help celebrate the shop closing with his other children. His oldest daughter lives with him, so she will join in, and although his wife died four years ago, "she is with the Lord and will be celebrating, too," Erickson said.
The Shoe Clinic is located at 2114 Main St. in Forest Grove.
By Liz Hutchison
Writer/Office Manager, Forest Grove News-Times
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