Randy Parker: Kaysville’s ‘Sole Man’

By James Thalman Special for the Davis Clipper

KAYSVILLE—In an age when people can traverse the virtual world at the speed of light, shoe repairman Randy Parker is still cobbling along here in the real world. Parker can be found in the same place on Main Street in Kaysville for the last 45 years – a 325-square-foot shop filled with the soothing odor of new leather, shoe polish, thick strands of thread, and laughter. “As far as I know, they haven’t come up with digital shoes,” Parker said with his trademark knowing smile. “Until then, I’ll keep doing what I do.” Sit down and talk to Parker for five minutes, and you realize you can’t sit down and talk to Parker for five minutes. A steady stream of folks roll through his shop. He’ll do a short stop and chat. He’ll assess the wear and tear of a pair, and give the customer in hopes of finding a second life a quick “Yes, you bet,” or a “No, no way.” He hops among the shoe-shaped brass tack anvil to the pile of the day’s repairs that are often stacked three deep on his counter. Or, what appears to be a counter, or whatever structure it is underneath. With the running commentary about how much he loved his adopted home of Kaysville, and the purr of his belt-driven emery wheels, he banters with customers. A mother of a teen who seems as distressed as the $150 Air Jordans she shows Parker is hoping that he can repair the worn-out toe, and gets a quick “No way, no how,” as Parker hands the hip sneakers back to her. “The mesh uppers that the kids are so into these days are thin and lightweight, but once they’re frayed they’re frayed,” he says, doing his best to be understanding to the disappointed but not surprised “sneaker mom.” After she makes her way out onto the sidewalk, Parker sits back down at his sewing machine. Without looking up he says, “I must tell three moms a day that most of the really expensive shoes wear about as well as a pair of socks.” He seats himself again to reattach the Velcro straps on an 80s pair of Nike sneakers someone can’t seem to part with. In between he’ll continue refurbishing a pair of Lucchese Croc Belly cowboy boots – the most expensive pair of shoes in his shop at the moment. “There is nothing better than the feel of a well-made pair of shoes, and these are among the best,” he said as he pulled the hand-made, snoot-toed, serious cowboy boots from the top shelf of his shop. “With great shoes, it’s not so much how they look – though they always have a kind of never-outdated look to them – it’s how they feel.” He gets a kick out of his work that a lot of people who make a lot more money never do – seeing a day’s work all shined up and ready and arrayed on the shelf. “There’s no faking it or PR or BS. You see it, and your customer sees it. Either it’s good work, or it’s not.” There’s a bond people have with shoes, Parker believes. “I can’t really explain it, but I see it in people’s faces every day. When I hand them back their old pair looking years younger, it’s just like they’re seeing an old friend again. What that’s about, I can’t say, but it makes me feel good to be part of it.” What tips does this sole man on Main Street have? — “Take a look at your shoes; others do.” — “Clothes might make the man, but shoes make the clothes.” — “Put a shine on your shoes once in a while. It will make your day.”


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