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  • Writer's pictureTanya Berndt

What My Father Taught Me About Running a Small Business

Growing up, I never truly appreciated my father's career. I knew my father was a hardworking shoe repairman, as was his father, Joseph, as was his father, Sebastian, who came straight "off the boat" with his trade from Italy. Then, there was my father's cousin (who still happens to be an active shoe repairman in Reading, PA) and many other cousins and uncles from several generations with many Italian last names, including Merlino and Parise, just to name a few.

When shoes were expensive for the average person and before the throw away society evolved into existence, people would value the one or two pairs of dress shoes they owned.

It was worth the money to resole and reheel, if the shoes were a part of your wardrobe for 10 + years. In it's heyday, circa the 1980s, my father remembers a line of customers waiting to have him examine and diagnose their shoe conditions.

My family lived above "Addesso Shoe Repair" until the time I was four years old and my grandparents lived above the shop where I would frequently visit until my grandfather's death in 1997. The sound of the machinery and the friendly conversations of the customers with my father and grandfather still echo in my ears today. I can also still envision my super hero powers when I would lift the mighty knife sharpener just like a sword and exclaim "by the power of She-Ra".

Looking back today, what I wouldn't give for just one more day in that shop, dusting the tops of the shoe spray cans, emptying the scraps of soles from the machines or hearing my pop pop's voice as he handed a numbered ticket to another customer, while attaching the other end with a safety pin to their shoe.

My father loved telling stories of his "distinguished" customers such as Mr. Boscov, the legendary Reading Department Store Owner. My father was proud that, even with all that money he most likely had, he still frequented Addesso Shoe Repair to have his shoes repaired.

Once I grew older and customers became few and far between, this seemingly prosperous career became increasingly stressful. Talks of how we would make ends meet each week haunted me. No longer could we be a one income family, nor could my father collect just one paycheck. A part time job became a normalcy for my dad and a full time job for my mother. Let's also not forget the fear that struck my family when an invaluable machine stopped working and a week with limited income occurred.

Looking back, I am so grateful to have all these memories (the good, the bad and the ugly). I am proud of my hardworking father, his career and everything he did to make ends meet. Several years ago now, my father retired from his career. Once a very profitable trade, became a dying trade. In fact, he had a hard time selling his leftover machinery, but more importantly, he had a hard time selling his family's legacy. I would never give back what I learned from him, his career and the experiences. The work of a small business owner is never complete but admired and valued by so many, including myself.

Stay tuned for my next blog related to small business owners (like my dad) and the insurance risks that should be taken into consideration.

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