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Storefront Repair Fund Grant Helps Cobbler Take on Challenges

The skills needed to be a cobbler include sewing, dying, and polishing. If you ask Shelly Luhman, it also requires skills beyond being able to mend a shoe.

Shelly Luhman with two pairs of shoes.

“You can’t be afraid to try new things and you can’t be afraid to get dirty,” says Luhman, the co-owner of Broadway Shoe Repair.

In fact, it’s the challenge of figuring out how to fix whatever people bring into the store that’s her favorite. From purses and tents to childhood teddy bears, Luhman says problem solving brings her joy.

“We are willing to fix pretty much anything somebody is willing to get in here. We’ve even done house calls for people that want to fix their leather couches,” she says. “We’re the kind of repair shop that if you don’t know where to take it, bring it here.”

Ward Luhman, Shelly’s dad opened Broadway Shoe Repair when shoe repair shops were more popular. So popular, Luhman says several of her dad’s friends also opened shoe repair shops around the same time. “You used to see shoe repairs on every corner,” she says.

She and her business partner Bobby Glokhov took over in September 2019, just months before the COVID-19 pandemic started. That brought new challenges for the new owners.

“We were closed for 89 business days,” says Luhman. “There was no guidance on what I was supposed to be doing during that time because shoe repair doesn’t fall into a category like a restaurant or an autobody shop.”

Luhman works on a boot.

It took a while, but she says business is good again. In December, Broadway Shoe Repair’s windows were broken. A customer told her about OED’s Storefront Repair Fund, where business owners can apply for $2,000 grants to help cover the costs to repair property damage to their store. Luhman applied and received a grant. 

“That grant helped take some of the stress off of paying for the new windows. It let us focus on the business more,” she says.

“We created this grant to provide businesses with a sense of relief after unfortunate situations. It also allows us to offer further engagement and assistance to small businesses that power our wonderful city,” says Domonique Meeks, small business advocate at the Seattle Office of Economic Development.

Luhman loves the independence and the pressure of owning her own business.

“Owning the shop hasn’t been much different than just working here,” she says. “I grew up in this business, watching my parents run it. All my life I was listening to them talk about the business, so it’s second nature to me.”

Through the ups and the downs, Luhman credits the store’s success to its loyal customer base.

“Some of these customers have been coming in longer than I’ve been alive,” she says. “They’ve watched me grow up. They’ve watched me grow into this business.”

Multiple pairs of shoes sit on a workbench.

Being able to build personal relationships with her customers and helping people makes it all worth it.

“We put custom lifts on people’s shoes or adjust shoes for people who are diabetic or have cancer. My favorite part is making a difference in people’s lives and seeing the big smiles on their faces when they come back,” says Luhman.

Now that Broadway Shoe Repair is seeing steady business again, Luhman says she plans to keep repairing whatever her customers bring in for a while.

“We plan to be here for a long time, fixing everybody’s shoes.”

Our office is dedicated to serving Seattle’s small businesses. These businesses not only drive our economy but are a key element of what makes our neighborhoods unique.

Funds are still available for the Storefront Repair Fund. Business owners can apply for $2,000 grants to help cover costs to repair current property damage or reimburse business owners for costs paid out of pocket for past damage. Eligible storefront property damage includes broken doors, locks, and windows that occurred on or after March 1, 2020. Interested businesses can review full eligibility criteria and apply here.