Shoe repair shop a staple in South Side

MIKE REUTHER/Sun-Gazette Jim Winner stands next to a pair of shoes the shop on Matthews Boulevard will repair.

At Bernardi’s Shoe Hospital they still do things the old-fashioned way.

And why not?

It seems to work just fine for Jim Winner, 87, and his son Todd Winner, 48, who own and operate the business at 905 Matthews Blvd., South Williamsport.

No state-of-the-art technology can be found in the small space where they run the enterprise, a throwback to perhaps thriftier times when people weren’t so quick to replace what they owned with the “newest and best.”

Jim relies on the shop’s vintage machines, which appear as relics from a 1950s vocational tech school, to do much of the shoe repair work.

“Just a little oil and basic maintenance” is all they usually require, he said.

An old cash register sits atop the counter for this business that accepts only cash and checks from customers.

“Sure,” said Todd. “It holds money as good as anything else.”

And, it’s just simpler and less expensive than dealing with credit and debit cards.

The father and son have been running the business for many years.

Jim got started in the shoe repair back in 1942, working for Mike Bernardi, whose business he would later buy.

Todd eventually got into the business.

“I learned from my dad,” he said.

Bernardi’s, which started in 1921, was located for many years on Market Street in Williamsport before moving to South Williamsport.

It’s been at its present site for the past 18 years.

The two Winners can’t imagine doing anything else.

“To tell you the truth, no,” said Todd.

Aside from the occasional father and son squabbles, the two agree they work well together.

“My son does all the shoe repair. I wait on the customers,” said Jim.

Jim said his days of shoe repair work are mostly behind him.

“I always kid him he’s in the front office now,” he added.

As perhaps the only business of its kind around, the shop would seem to have a market on fixing shoes, at least in Lycoming County.

On a recent weekday morning, three customers came to the store over the course of just a half hour for various shoe repairs.

At one point, Jim could be heard saying into a phone to a customer, “We’re all jammed up from the holidays.”

Todd conceded that many people aren’t aware that there exist places like their business where people can drop off footwear to be fixed. But once they bring their first pair of shoes or boots to the shop, they often return for other repair needs.

“We got really good customers,” said Todd. “It’s pretty steady.”

At any one time, the shop has two to three dozen pairs of shoes or boots awaiting repair.

The shop also repairs handbags.

“We work with rubber and leather,” Todd said.

Father and son noted that the shoe repair business has changed over the years.

These days, there are simply more types and styles of shoes on the market, although in many cases the quality isn’t as good.

“If you buy a good quality shoe, it is really worth getting repaired,” said Todd.

The shop takes in plenty of different kinds of footwear — work boots and shoes, dress shoes, high heels, even some sneakers

Todd said they simply won’t do any repair job when it would be more practical and cost-efficient for the customer to replace the footwear.

As for the future, Jim and Todd said they have no plans on doing anything else.

“We like being self-employed,” Todd said. “We will keep doing it.”