|Nick Cirillo with a customer|
When John Cirillo opened Sal’s, Little River was a two-lane road, and Annandale was a sleepy little town. He retired in 1980, and his son, Nick Cirillo, took over the business. Nick, in turn, turned over the shop to his stepson, Chris Zeck. Nick spends most of his time in Ocean City now, but comes back every so often to visit his family and help Chris with the shop.
The shop is a jumble of shoe supplies and memorabilia, including former Redskin Mark Mosely’s white kicking shoe [see photo below]. Another shoe Nick worked on for Mosely is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Sal’s used to do a lot of work for the Redskins, and one job Nick recalls was enlarging shoes for Dave Butz, who wears size 12 7E.
“The shoe repair business is terrible now,” Nick laments. “A lot of the stuff made in China and Korea is plastic junk. It’s cheaper to buy a new pair.” It costs $50 to $60 to fix a pair of shoes, he says, while you can buy a new shoes for $39.
Other trends have put half the shoe repair shops in the country out of business, Nick says. Sal’s lost 25 percent of its business when athletic shoes started to become popular, he says. Parents no longer dress up their children with nice shoes for church, and overall, people wear more casual footwear.
The shop also expanded its services; Sal’s fixes purses and luggage, sharpens knives and scissors, and makes duplicate keys.
When we visited on a recent weekday evening, there was a steady stream of customers. Several people brought in shoes with worn out soles and heels, and one woman was looking for something to prevent her too-large platform heels from slipping off. Nick had the perfect solution—a gel insole.
|The most famous shoe|