Lihue’s Shoe Repair Man

Ray Duarte

Ray Duarte
Owner, Shoe Repair Shop

Tell us about your business.

I repair shoes, but I also repair almost anything else leather-related that needs some type of stitching like clothing, bags and backpacks. I fix a lot of sentimental things that people bring in – items that have been in the family for awhile. I’ve been in business since 1977, and this is my third location in Lihu’e.

How did you get started in this business?

When I was living in New York City, I had the opportunity to work in a shoe-repair shop and I liked it, and so when I came back to Kaua’i, the first thing I did was purchase all the equipment. In two week I started my business on Kaua’i. Because I was familiar with the shoe-repair business – the repair trade – I had all the confidence in starting my own business, and it worked out.

What sets your business apart?

I keep it simple and people get to deal with me, the owner, one-on-one. And because I’m so familiar with the business, they feel confident talking to me and they know they’re going to get a good job – as opposed to other businesses, you never talk to the owner, you talk to an employee who doesn’t know what’s happening and gives you the runaround. That frustrates people.

But here people enjoy coming back.

They stop by to just say hello and mail me cards of appreciation.

Why do you do what you do?

Because I like it and, at this point, everything is a nobrainer and comes naturally. It’s easy. I don’t have a hard time repairing anything and if something is too difficult, I don’t do it. Also, just building up a rapport with my customers over the years and having steady customers is why I like to come to work.

Duarte consults with regular customer Jim Watson, who calls Duarte a ‘miracle worker’

What motivates you to get up and go to work every day

My wife, Eunice.

Do you have a philosophy for doing business?

To keep it simple, small and under control. Know your limit; don’t over-extend yourself. Know when it’s time to fold rather than continue a business that’s not working. That’s why I’ve been around for 33 years.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your business?

Right now, just to stay in business. In this business, you cannot really charge outrageous prices, you have to keep them reasonable, and with the increase in cost of living and everything, that’s the challenge. And just trying to be fair with my customers on Kaua’i.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your business?

Working here affords me the two luxuries of life: eating and living indoors. And I still can do that. What’s also rewarding is just when I fix something and make someone happy.

Are more people repairing items as opposed to purchasing new ones because of the economy?

That’s not really true. To me, that was a big hype. I have my regular customers. The same people come in, and right now the economy is hard for everybody. Just judging my business, it’s been steady – it’s still the same. In fact, it’s a little worse now; it’s slowed down. Sometimes people don’t even come back to pick their stuff up.

How do you measure success?

For me, I guess it’s how people view me, how people view my business. Being in business all of these years, if people didn’t think I did a good job or it wasn’t worth anything, they wouldn’t come back to my shop. So success is how you can please people and make them happy, and have them return for 33 years. When people move away and come back, and I’m still here, it’s like a ray of sunshine in their life. It brings back memories.

Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
4442 Hardy St., # 108 245-6542

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