August 16, 2018
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  • Coleman Eldridge has owned and operated Shoe Specialist in the Benfield Village Shopping Center since 1978.
    Photo by Maya Pottiger
    Coleman Eldridge has owned and operated Shoe Specialist in the Benfield Village Shopping Center since 1978.

Coleman Eldridge Has Repaired Severna Park Soles For 40 Years

Maya Pottiger
Maya Pottiger's picture
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August 7, 2018

When Coleman Eldridge bought his store on Benfield Road in 1978, he was the only merchant. There wasn’t even a shopping center, just a slab of concrete surrounded by woods, Eldridge said.

Now, 40 years later, Eldridge is still working out of his Benfield Village Shopping Center store, Shoe Specialist.

A lot has changed in the shoe repair business since Eldridge first started, back when he was limited to the hours after high school let out.

“There’s so many shoes on the market now, you can buy new shoes for the price of repairment,” Eldridge said. “Some people say, ‘Oh, it’s not worth the price to repair them because I can buy a new pair for less money than repairing them.’”

There is a sign in the window advertising that Shoe Specialist cleans Uggs, a shoe that did not exist when Eldridge first opened. Where Eldridge spent his youth learning how to repair leather shoes and leather soles, he rarely comes across those anymore. Instead, it’s man-made materials that require “special cements” instead of “regular all-purpose cement,” Eldridge said.

“You automatically keep up with things like that,” Eldridge said. “We have to change with the time and how the shoes are made today.”

But the biggest change to the market? Tennis shoes.

“Tennis shoes are about 60 percent of the market,” Eldridge said. “I had a young man come in here quite a few years back, and he had his tux on. He was looking for laces for his tennis shoes, and he was going to the prom. They were clean, but I was shocked to see that.”

When he was in high school, Eldridge spent his afternoons and summers working for John Cirillo at PX Shoe Repair, which is where he learned the trade. He worked at PX Shoe Repair for 18 years before deciding to open his own store.

Before Shoe Specialist in Severna Park, Eldridge first opened a store in Philadelphia, where he stayed for a year. He came home on the weekends to see his family, but business wasn’t great, and Eldridge decided to pack up and try again closer to home.

“Some of the equipment I had up there, I brought down here. I have new equipment now, but back then, that’s what I started with here,” Eldridge said. “That was a big advantage: I didn’t have to buy new stuff.”

A people person, Eldridge said his favorite part of the business is talking to customers. He tries to “get respect across the counter, and [customers] give it back.”

“Customers tell you how good the work you do is, and you feel great about what you do,” Eldridge said. “I tell them all the time, ‘You made my day.’”

Over the 40 years he has spent in Severna Park, Eldridge said he’s been blessed with great customers and no problems.

“I wanted to be judged by the content of my character, not the color of my skin,” Eldridge said.

In addition to shoes, Shoe Specialist repairs handbags and suitcases. The store has a supply of laces, new shoes and shoe care products available for sale.

“I’m trying to be convenient,” Eldridge said. “I’m trying to bring customers in the store.”

Shoe Specialist is located in the Benfield Shopping Center at 568 Benfield Boulevard in Severna Park. It’s open Tuesday through Friday from 9:00am to 7:00pm and on Saturday from 9:00am to 5:00pm. For more information, call 410-544-2129 or visit www.shoespecialistmd.com.


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