PITTSBURGH — Local shoemaker Tony Macchiaroli is closing his business after 64 years.
At almost 18 years old, Macchiaroli moved to Pittsburgh from Italy with $0.35 in his pocket.
“It was in 1953,” said Macchiaroli. “It was like a dream.”
He quickly got a job and says the first week he made $8. Then he met his future wife at Braddock Hospital.
“I went there for my appendix,” said Macchiaroli. “I asked for a date. We fell in love. I was married for 55 years with the lady, and she loved me the most. And believe me that’s the only person who had dearly loved me because I was an orphan and suffered a lot. I thank God for every day I’m here.”
When the Great Valley Shopping Center opened, Macchiaroli started his own shoe repair shop. A cake only cost $0.39 when his dream of owning a business came true.
“Look at the price,” said Macchiaroli. “Apples, $0.35 for a 4-pound bag. Things have changed.”
Macchiaroli says he used to put a dozen half soles on a day.
“I don’t do that today in six months,” said Macchiaroli. “It’s a lost art, but thank God I always made a nice living.”
He relocated his shoe repair shop to the old Eastland Mall, which Amazon is now developing. Then in 2004, he moved back to his original location in the Great Valley Shopping Center.
“I never thought I’d be here for 17 years,” said Macchiaroli. “They never raised a penny rent on me, and I could close any time I want. I didn’t have to sign a lease because they knew I was old, but I never thought I’d live this long.”
For more than three decades, business was booming. But then at 87 years old, Macchiaroli decided this dream of his had run its course. His health plus skyrocketing expenses led him to that decision.
“We used to put half soles and heels on for $3.50,” said Macchiaroli. “Now, we get $50. A gallon of cement last year was $27. Went up to $48 this year, and that’s another reason why I’m getting out of here.”
He just didn’t want to have to pass on the cost. He took care of his customers.
“I’m going to miss my customers because they actually kept me alive,” said Macchiaroli.
And his customers took care of him because they love him more than he’ll ever know.
“Tony is an absolute ray of sunshine,” said Kathy Jo Pollack. “He just lights up my life. I have to say it is going to be a little sad not coming to the shop, opening up that door, and seeing him through that window and waving and sharing our hugs.”
“It’s not goodbye,” said Macchiaroli. “No, I’ll just say, I’ll see you later. You know how they say in Italian. Arrivederci. Means I’ll see you again.”
Macchiaroli’s last full day at Valley Shoe Repair is Aug. 31.
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