Cheryl Sampson, a resident west of downtown Delaware, wanted to know if she could salvage a pair of shoes from the typical daily wear and tear.
It was by word of mouth that led Sampson to Ralph Martin’s shoe repair store, 28 W. Winter St., Wednesday morning.
“I’ve heard from my neighbors it’s a good shop,” Sampson said.
Martin explained to Sampson how the shoes were beyond repair, which she understood. Martin said it’s part of the job when customers bring their shoes to him for repair. Since some shoes are imported from overseas, it’s much cheaper to buy a new pair, he said.
“Most of the shoes you do are worth it,” he added.
The 85-year-old cobbler will be recognized by the city of Delaware at his store 10 a.m. Friday. Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle will present Martin a proclamation declaring “Ralph Martin Day” today. The recognition comes as Martin said he looks to retire within the next six months after working at the shop for more than 50 years.
Martin’s daughter, Elizabeth Bodenhamer, said the store has been her father’s social place and he looks forward to every customer who walks through his door.
“Even the angry ones,” she said, smiling. “I don’t know what he would do if he was home” all day.
Martin used to work seven days a week at the shop until he had a stroke in February 2015. It forced him to close the shop before coming back earlier this year.
“It was going good until I had my stroke,” he said.
He now works three days a week — on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Beatrice Ross, Martin’s ex-wife, said it was time to bring him back to the shop as a form of therapy.
“He has his good days and bad days,” she said.
Martin sometimes finds it difficult to express himself or “say what I want to say,” he said. But the shoe repairman was still able to joke back and forth with an old friend who visited the shop Wednesday morning.
Third Ward City Council member Joe DiGenova, who will visit Martin’s shop Friday with his wife, said the cobbler has been a great asset for the community and will be missed by a lot of people.
DiGenova’s son had Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, requiring leg and hip braces, which Martin made and adjusted during a four-year-period.
“He never charged us a nickle for it,” DiGenova said.
Born and raised in Zanesville during the 1940s, Martin came to Delaware in the late 1950s before working at the shoe repair store under Dave Dixon’s ownership in 1961. Martin bought the store from Dixon two years later and has worked there since then.
“It’s been too long,” Bodenhamer said. “But it’s what he knows.”
Brandon Klein can be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.