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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sal's has been fixing shoes in Annandale since 1954

Nick Cirillo with a customer
Shoe styles have changed over the decades, and so has Annandale, as businesses have come and gone, but Sal’s Shoe Repair has been at the same spot on Little River Turnpike since 1954.

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.

Sal’s has been able to stay afloat because “we have a good clientele,” he says. “People have been coming here for 40 or 50 years. Now their children come in.” He also credits the area’s Korean population for wearing high-quality shoes and having them fixed when they wear out.

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
in Annandale?

Still, it’s a lot slower than in the past. In the 1980s, Sal’s had five or six employees. Now, there’s just Nick, Chris, and one employee. “We’ll stay open as long as the customers keep coming,” Nick says.

There’s a sign over the counter, made by the sisters at St. Michaels, that says: “Your shoes: We doctor them, heel them, attend to their dyeing, and save their soles.”

Sal’s Shoe Repair, 7312 Little River Turnpike, Annandale, 703/941-9864.
Open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

1 comment:

  1. It is a great business. I take my shoes there. They are the nicest people, and I love to support local businesses.