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Bobbins of colored thread sit atop an old patching machine at The Red Shoe House on Oak Street.

When your shoes get worn from walking, the first response might be head to the nearest store and throw down many dollars for a new pair.

And then there's shoe repair, an appealing option for many in these tough economic times.

"Our retail end of (the business) is off, but as far as repairs, they are holding their own," said Eddie Tatum, owner of Red Shoe House, which recently moved from its longtime location on Bradford Street to 822 Oak St. in Gainesville.

"We're as busy or busier than we normally would be for this time of year. July and August usually are our slowest months," Tatum said, adding that people don't usually wear "heavier work-type stuff" during that time.

L.C. "Red" House started the Red Shoe House in 1969 and hired Tatum's father, Fate Tatum, to work at the business.

"Basically, he decided to sell the business and he sold it to my father in (1972)," he said. "My father ran it for numerous years. I worked for him as a kid, after school and on Saturdays."

Tatum bought the business in 1981, after his father had gotten sick.

"Pretty much, I've been running it ever since," he said.

The Red Shoe House operated on Sycamore Street, now Jesse Jewell Parkway, until 1976, when Tatum's father moved the business to Bradford Street. Tatum moved to the new location March 17.

A $35 million development planned for 5.5 acres in Midtown Gainesville, including a 13-story hotel and two 11-story office buildings, signaled the end of Red Shoe's Bradford Street location.

When Tatum found out his business might be in the way of a wrecking ball, he began scouting out other locations in town.

"We were kind of hoping the guy that bought the place over there would leave our little building and build around it," said his wife, Anita, who also works at the store, laughing.

The couple said they enjoy the new location and its exposure off heavily traveled Oak Street.

A slow economy has kept the cracked and chipped soles coming in, but it has hit the Tatums hard in other ways.

In addition to retail sales dropping (the store sells Wolverine boots and shoes and miscellaneous shoe products), the materials used in shoe repair have seen a spike in costs.

"They're petroleum-based and inflation is kind of eating at us a little bit," Tatum said.

His wife added, "We had to have our first price increase in ... gosh, it's been a long time."

"Probably seven or eight years," he added.

Shoe repair, he said, was a bustling business at one time. The city had three repair shops and Tatum had more workers at his business.

"Imports are really hurting this business," Tatum said. "A lot of those shoes are all molded together. They're not really feasible to repair."

He said, "We've developed ways of doing things that we normally would not have done years ago because of the way (shoes are made)."

The store also works on braces and orthopedic build-ups.

"We do (repair work on) luggage and pocketbooks and belts," Anita said.

"Lately, I think people use us as more like a handyman," Eddie added, chuckling. "They just bring anything in."

One customer thankful for the Tatums' expanded services is Mark Summerour, a Habersham County resident who suffers from paralysis in his left leg following a 1994 car wreck.

The store modifies his right and left shoes to help Summerour in his balance and posture, putting more of the weight on his right foot and left heel.

"They have been great for me over the years," Summerour said.

The Tatums are happy to oblige. They have plenty of repeat customers, people they have known for years.

"If we read the obituaries and one of our older customers has passed away, it just breaks our heart," Anita said.

Eddie said, "We enjoy the people. ... Sometimes we get into too long a conversation with folks when they come in."

And while business has been good, the Tatums said they're not in it for the money.

"We don't make money. We make a living," Eddie said. "I haven't accomplished a whole lot in life other than running our business and making a decent living."

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