By LYNNE WESTAFER
EAGLE ROCK — An old-fashioned bell rings as you cross the threshold, breathing in leather, oil and time. It’s not surprising to learn that a cobbler has worked out of this space on Eagle Rock Boulevard for over 70 years. Harut Torossian, the most recent cobbler, easily remembers the day he bought the store. “May 8, 1980, my daughter’s third birthday, that’s why I never forget.” Now, he’s eager to brag about his grandchildren, ready with an envelope full of pictures.
As a young man in Armenia, the work was all done by hand. At Harut’s Shoe Repair, Torossian, 68, has multiple machines to help, most dating back to the ’80’s if not earlier. Back then, dancers were his bread and butter, including contracts with the performers for Princess Cruises and Crystal Cruises. For years, the kids from a studio up the street were also regular customers.
“Once in awhile, they come and say, Harut, do you remember me? How can I remember? You’ve been nine years old, ten years old, and now you’re thirty years old … but they remember me, that makes me happy. That means I did something right, something good for them.”
Torossian speaks four languages but doesn’t know how to use a computer, and doesn’t keep detailed ledgers. Instead, he relies on the numbered tickets he hand-writes for each job. Don’t lose that ticket! “Without the number it’s very hard for me because I cannot write and read English. “ Ironically, technology provides an easy backup. “I say to people, if you have a phone, take a picture, in case you lose it.”
Now, this self-described “workaholic” agrees to be interviewed, but has to be reassured it won’t mean a flood of new business. He just wants to keep busy, refusing to retire despite several health issues and pressure from his family.
“I said, ‘No. I’m going to work, but I’m going to work less hours.’ I don’t want to stay home and die soon.”
So he works. Heels, soles, hooks & laces – shine, shine shine.
Lynne Westafer is a journalist, filmmaker, video producer and writer.