Cobbler's a step back in time
After more than 50 years in business, John Pearce Boot and Shoe Repairs is a bit of an institution with a longstanding reputation for craftsmanship. The small cobbler’s shop in Mayfair Place, Glen Innes was opened back in 1965 by Reg, John Pearce’s father. Reg and his wife brought up their two children in a house on Taniwha Street.
John was 16 when he started a four-year cobbler’s apprenticeship alongside his parents, taking pride in learning the art of being a cobbler. Reg was always active in the community. He was a member of a committee which raised funds for an early urban marae. At the start, it was just two old school classrooms joined together.
Reg died suddenly in 1975 when he was just 49. At the time, he was honoured for his contribution to the community by local Māori who conducted a karakia (blessing) at his funeral.
More recently, a street in the Overlea neighbourhood development in Glen Innes was named after him, Reg Pearce Way. John jokes the name was chosen because it was always, “Reg’s way, or no way at all”.
John also makes a habit of giving back. As a member of the Triumph Club, he rode his classic 1966 Triumph 350cc motorcycle in the ‘Distinguished Gentlemen’s Ride’ and raised $4000 for Prostate Cancer Research.
John took over the shoe repair shop when his father died. Like Reg, he’s takes pride in the store’s history and old-fashioned business model. Among the Dutch clogs and other collectable shoes adorning the walls are Kiwi Rocker Larry Morris’ boots.
It’s a business that attracts a loyal customer base, John says. “There are now fourth-generation customers coming from all over Auckland to get their soles fixed. Some send their shoes from as far afield as Kaitaia in the north and Christchurch in the south.”
John is passionate about Tāmaki and supports the work done under the Tāmaki Regeneration Programme. “When I first came to Tāmaki as a kid, we loved the vibrant village atmosphere. It’s great that this part of Auckland has kept its unique sense of place.
“Things were a bit tough then, but Dad said he could see a time of resurgence coming. The big challenge now is to transform the Glen Innes Town Centre,” he says.
John thought about retiring last year but his customers weren’t pleased. The compromise was that he now works a four-day week, and everyone is happy.