The Shoe Doctor mixes work and play
CAVE SPRING–Walking into the Shoe Doctor at Corners Shopping Center, one is likely to receive one of the following greetings: “Hey, young fella,” if the customer is a man with white hair; sometimes a “How are you doing, girl?” with a distinct southern twang, whether the female in question is five years old or 55. Rarely will he switch to a milder “How can I help you?”
Michael Ruth, also known as the Shoe Doctor, is a man of strong opinions. His numerous photographs of Republican presidents hanging on the walls, and his television relentlessly tuned to Fox News make this obvious.
“Subtlety is not one of my finer points,” Ruth said. “If you ask me something, I’ll give it to you straight.”
But Ruth is also a compassionate man. The dozens of plaques thanking him for his help, or his contributions to one organization or another, prove as much. In fact, it is up for debate which he has more of: political memorabilia or handwritten thank you’s. On his counter sits a photograph of Ruth shaking Representative Bob Goodlatte’s hand. On every available wall, Ruth has hung photos of Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, and George W. Bush. And right next to these hang plaques from the t-ball team he coaches, year after year; signed photos of beauty queens and U.S. Generals thanking him for his service; and even a certificate from the United States Army thanking him for honoring servicemen with free shoe shines and repairs.
Some may say Ruth is a study in contradictions. While he has made a living off of his own hard work and business sense, he is not afraid to share his wealth with others.
Ruth got his start in shoe and leather repair at the tender age of 17, when he walked into a shoe repair shop in Colorado, and instantly fell in love: the machines, the smell of newly polished leather– that was the life for him. He quickly apprenticed himself to the owner of the store. Twenty-five years later, he is still in love. His license plate even reads N2 Leather.
“You don’t get rich doing shoe repair, but you make a good living,” Ruth said. “When you can work with your hands, you will always be able to find a job. And who says a man doesn’t know how to sew? I love to sew.”
Ruth certainly has fun. After spending 20 years at Tanglewood Mall, he moved to the Corners Shopping Center in 2004. He has built a stellar reputation with his customers, who know he will go the extra mile for them. Even the other Corners business owners stop by daily for a chat, a cup of coffee, or one of the frozen candy bars Ruth is always giving away.
“Never a dull moment, is it?” Ruth said, while answering the phone and helping an in-store customer at the same time.
And always with a grin on his face.