As footwear manufacturers moved offshore for cheaper labor, cobblers vanished with them. "There's not a lot of need for shoe repair when people are buying $20 shoes," says Jeff Milchen, co-founder of the American Independent Business Alliance, a nonprofit that supports independent, local businesses.
Port Washington (Wisc.)-based shoemaker and cobbler Allen Edmonds
does not do cheap: The company's biggest sellers go for $225 to $325. Unlike its competitors, the company kept most of its facilities in the U.S. and focused on "medium value" dress shoes, rather than high- or low-end shoes, says Chief Executive Officer Paul Grangaard. Last year the company sold about 400,000 pairs of shoes and repaired about 60,000, he says, adding that same-store sales are up 26 percent, year-over-year.