OFFBEAT Take your leather goods in for a much-needed renewal
Ever thought of a make-over for the sandals you wear or the bag you flaunt? Here’s a place that washes, repairs and freshens up all kinds of branded footwear, suitcases and bags. This small attic in K.K.Nagar smells of leather and rubber. M.Pandi sits surrounded by torn shoes, mending a worn-out sole. Showing a burnt Reebok racing shoe, he says, “Repairing branded shoes is quite a task as I need to get an exact match.” Scrubbing a leather strap, he adds, “The job of a cobbler is no more a thing to look down upon. Shoes have become lifestyle products rather than simple necessities. And I am a cobbler transformed into a designer.”
Sparrow, a spa for shoes, is a service centre that offers resoling, stain removal, colouring and size adjustment. Thirukumaran, the proprietor, says, “This is one-of-its-kind in South Tamil Nadu. Next to Chennai, Madurai is the only city to have a service centre for footwear and bags. I wanted to do something different and plunged into shoe repairing business.” Started a year ago, Sparrow has got nearly 300 service orders so far. Thirukumaran says that finding the right craftsman was a big task. “I went to the Maapalayam area in town where there were many cobblers once, only to find that they all have branched into different professions,” he says. “Pandi is from Dindigul. He has experience of working in leather factories making bags and shoes for bus conductors.”
Apart from repair, Sparrow also stocks in-house products like diabetic footwear and slippers specially designed for orthopaedic patients. “Diabetic footwear is made of foam so that it gives a cushion effect on the heels, improving blood circulation to the legs and ankles. All our raw materials are purchased from wholesale markets in Chennai,” says Thirukumaran. “We get orders of orthopaedic adjustments even from nearby districts. Once repaired, the products are couriered to customers. These adjustments help to relieve pain caused due to wrongly designed footwear. The fit and height of the sole can also be adjusted according to the requirement.” The in-house Sparrow footwear costs Rs.150 to Rs.200.
The centre also offers exclusive shoe-cleaning services. Dirt and scars on shoes are removed using chemical solutions and the colours are enhanced to make them look brand new. “There are people who attach sentiments to footwear and are particular about a pair,” Thirukumaran points out. Most people like the fit and design of their sports shoes and are reluctant to throw them away.
On an average, Pandi mends four shoes a day. “The charge and time of delivery depends on the extent of damage. A shoe-laundry service may take four hours and complete resoling will take two days,” says Pandi. “We get more men customers than women. Middle-aged office-goers care more about their shoes than collegians.”
Thirukumaran says, “We take orders from nearly 15 footwear shops in town. We also do home pick-ups and delivery. The concept is to increase the life of shoes and discourage people from throwing away worn-out footwear.” A small patch work will cost Rs.25 while resoling will cost Rs.600. “It’s always a better and cheaper option than buying a new pair,” suggests Thirikumaran. Sparrow also provides three months’ warranty for all its work, within which time any re-work is undertaken for free.
Next time the strap on your favourite pair snaps, just call 9677656586.