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Shop can help with dancing shoes, slippers and everything in between

PHOTO COURTESY OF GEORGINA YOUNG-ELLIS - Hillsdale Shoe Repair offers friendly and attentive service, says columnist Georgina Young-Ellis.Sometimes, when I least expect it, a business hits me over the head with sincerity. I like it when I don’t have to seek out sincerity — it just finds me. And that’s what happened at Hillsdale Shoe Repair.

YOUNG-ELLISI realize a shoe repair shop may not be the most glamourous kind of business to highlight for a newspaper article or blog post, but when a place radiates sincerity, I can’t help but want to write about it. My discovery of Hillsdale Shoe Repair comes with a backstory, so indulge me for a moment.

My husband and I like to go swing dancing, and have taken lessons for several years. In order to do just about any kind of social dancing beyond just shakin’ it on the dance floor, you need the right shoes. My husband always has trouble finding shoes of any kind that fit right and are comfortable. One day, he picked up a pair of shoes he found sitting on a wall outside of a church and brought them home.

I immediately freaked out, worried that they could have been worn by anyone with any icky foot crud. And anyway, who would pick up a pair of shoes left out on the street? He argued that they looked brand new, and inisisted that they would make great swing dancing shoes. I admitted they would, but was still grossed out.

I would have had him toss them immediately into the wash, but they had suede uppers, so that wasn’t a possibility. And I had to admit, they did look brand new and were the perfect, jaunty style for swing dancing. I reluctantly “let” him keep them, since they also fit him perfectly and were really comfortable.

He wore them out swing dancing and really liked them, but one thing that dance shoes often have that they did not were suede soles that allow you to really spin around on the floor. Therefore, in order to make them the perfect dance shoes, he decided to have suede soles attached.

We had never been to a shoe repair shop in Portland, but came upon Hillsdale Shoe Repair, located at 6311 S.W. Capitol Highway in Hillsdale Center next to Bank of America, and he took them in. It wasn’t cheap to have the suede soles put on, but we didn’t think it would be. However, Chris Rudarmel, who has owned the shop for 32 years — though it’s been there since 1954 — did a beautiful job. Now the shoes are perfect, and my husband is a happy dancer.

Then I decided to have my sheepskin slippers professionally cleaned and brought them there as well. Rudarmel looked at them and explained to me that she could clean them for $25, or she could sell me suede cleaner for $10 and a brush for $4 and I could do it myself if I so chose. But she didn’t let it go at that. She spent five minutes explaining, kindly and in great detail, how to clean them.

I decided to go with that option, because I figured I could always use the cleaner and the technique on other suede shoes (like my husband’s swing shoes!) in the future.

While I was in the shop, other customers came and went while another staff member helped them. Both women were friendly and attentive, and I could see why they were running a hopping business. I may not have to go to Hillsdale Shoe Repair often, but when I do, I’ll be glad for their kindness, professionalism and thoroughness.

Rating: Very Sincere

Georgina Young-Ellis moved to Multnomah from Queens, N.Y., in 2015. She explores the world outside of big-box chain stores to find local businesses intent on customer service, customer satisfaction and a pleasurable customer experience. To read more about her experiences at Portland-area shops, visit

Georgina’s Sincerity Scale

Extraordinarily sincere — Great customer service; high-quality products at appropriate prices; local, sustainable or eco-friendliness given high priority. Makes me want to bring my mom.

Very sincere — Notable customer service; better-than-average-quality products; some thought given to sustainability, etc. They actually seem to care.

Pretty sincere — Working hard to make me believe they’re extraordinarily sincere, but there are some cracks in the facade.

Not sincere at all — Customer walking in the door viewed simply as a dollar sign.

Not even in the ballpark — Poor customer service; price gouging; salespeople only available if they think I’m going to steal something.

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