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Tighter times are sweet sole music for Bayside cobbler

A Bayside shoemaker said the number of requests for shoe repairs at his Bell Boulevard business have risen so much since the economy began declining last fall that he is planning to hire full and part−time assistants.

Steven Lastihenos, owner of Apollo Comfort and Shoe Repair at 42−34 Bell Blvd. in Bayside, said the economic downturn has boosted his business even as other stores on the block have been forced to run sales.

Although new retail shoe sales still make up the majority of his business, many customers who have been caught in the unraveling economy have been keeping their shoes longer and repairing them instead of buying new ones, he said.

“I’ve noticed people come around that have never been shoe repair customers in the past so that they can save a little money,” he said. “They realize that rather than getting a new pair, they can get a lot more out of their shoes.”

Repairs at the shop, which was opened by Lastihenos’ father in 1978, have been up as much as 25 percent to 30 percent during the past six months, he said.

He said new shoe repair customers are primarily in their 20s and that women’s boots and men’s business−type shoes are the most common items he is given to fix.

But the shop has also seen an increase in other types of repairs, including zippers for jackets and color refinishes for leather jackets, bags and attachÉ cases.

Lastihenos said customers can save as much as $100 to $150 if they repair their shoes rather than purchasing new footwear.

“I think the economy has had some effect on the business,” he said. “People are trying to buy better quality and make it last longer. They want to throw away less.”

Now, Lastihenos said he is looking to hire shoemakers to work full− and part− time at the store to enable Apollo to take more repair orders. He said he never “thought he would be able to expand his services at a time when so many other businesses are struggling.”

He added, “So many businesses have been closing in the last few months, so I’m pleased it’s picking up for us.”

The store currently employs two workers who work solely on shoe repair, as well as an additional employee who works in the retail section of the store. Lastihenos said he was looking to hire people for both sections of the store.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e−mail at nduke@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 156.

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