Shop Spotlight: Sole Survivor Shoe Repair
Tucked away in a basement located in Kensington Market, lies a shoe cobbler like no other. Sole Survivor Shoe Repair is an open concept shoe repair shop headed by one of the only female cobblers in Canada, Lorena Agolli. With so few women in the cobbling industry, it’s refreshing to hear why Agolli decided to get into the male dominated old-school trade of shoe repair. “Ironically enough, I hate feet!” Agolli laughs, “but it kind of makes sense that I want to create nice shoes so that people can cover them up. I didn’t know that I wanted to get into cobbling. I just loved working with my hands.”
After working a corporate job, Agolli found herself unsatisfied with the life she had been living and began searching for something more fulfilling to do. “I began thinking, how can I make a living by just being creative?” She wanted a career that she loved first and that money would come secondary to. On a whim, Agolli attended a moccasin workshop and left with her creative thirst quenched. “I loved putting on a pair of shoes that I made and could walk in. [A pair of shoes] that were comfortable because I made them.”
Agolli began to approach cobblers across the city after difficulty finding shoemaking classes in Toronto. “I approached a bunch of cobblers just so that I could be in their environment and watch them. However, a lot of them were hesitant to have me because I was a girl, I wasn’t strong enough, or they just didn’t have the time.” Despite the rejection, Agolli was determined to find her place in the male dominated industry and through the magic of social media, found Sole Survivor. Agolli began apprenticing for Sole Survivor’s former owner, Katie Reed, close to three years ago and took over the business just last year.
Since taking over, Agolli has overhauled and improved hundreds of shoes – with no task too difficult. “For me, it’s all about improving my skill level. I find it fun to take on jobs that other cobblers have said no to or have claimed are beyond repair. [The shoes in question] might be, but I would love to still try.” Currently, Agolli takes on the traditional tasks of cobbling including polishes ($5), cleans & conditions ($10), heel repairs ($20 for men’s shoes & $18 for women’s), sole repair, and zipper application ($25+ depending on zipper length). Non-traditional tasks include leather work on boxing gloves and handbags – proving that there are no tasks to large for the female run repair shop. Though Agolli has a lot of big things up her sleeve in the upcoming year, one of the biggest is bespoke shoes. She’ll be offering the service of creating custom shoes from beginning to end. Prices start at $500 – an extremely modest price for custom leather shoes!
Stop in on a big day like a job interview or wedding and Agolli will polish up your kicks on the house! And that isn’t the only positive vibe she sends to her customers, “When people get full resoles, I like to put positive words on the soles of their feet, so even though they don’t know it – I’m spreading the love a bit more.”