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After 59 years in town, Rochester’s last shoe repair store closes

Brothers Mike and Tony Derouin began working at the shop in the mid-70s with their dad, who opened Thee Only Shoe Repair a decade before.

Thee Only Shoe Repair
Mike Derouin, owner of Thee Only Shoe Repair, works on a customer's shoe Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022, at the shop in Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — The last in a line of shoe repair stores across Rochester will be closing its doors for good on Friday. Thee Only Shoe Repair, which has operated in Rochester since 1963, is in its final two days of operation as owners and brothers Mike and Tony Derouin will go into retirement.

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“COVID thing and the Broadway construction had a small influence on it, but basically the main factor, it's time,” said Mike Derouin on their decision to retire.

Both Mike and his brother Tony Derouin began working at the shop with their dad in the mid-1970s. The Derouin brothers took over ownership during the 1980s but as the years went on, Mike Derouin took on full ownership while Tony took an assistant role from time to time.

The closure of Thee Only Shoe Repair comes only five months after Boston Shoe Repair closed its doors .

For Mike Derouin, retirement will take some adjusting. He will miss interacting with people on a daily basis above all else.

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“I’ve always liked fixing things and working with my hands. We've been here an awful long time, so you kind of get to know your customers. Your repeat customers have been coming here for 30, 40 years; you get to know them well. That's always fun to see them come in and talk to them and find out what's up in their life,” said Derouin.

Two crowds that have always been entertaining for the Derouin brothers as customers are motorcyclists and horse riders. The motorcyclists typically stop into the shop for patches they pick up at Sturgis Motorcycle Rally or elsewhere to be sewn onto their jacket sleeves.

As the days of business wind down at Thee Only Shoe Repair, the equipment that will no longer be in use is being sold off to an Amish farm on the east side of Harmony. The Amish purchasing the equipment plan to do a shoe repair operation of their own.

The Derouin brothers hope for a peaceful but busy end to the store’s life.

“It’s good to go out while you’re still on top,” exclaimed Mike Derouin.

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Thee Only Shoe Repair
Mike Derouin, right, owner of Thee Only Shoe Repair, and his brother, Tony Derouin, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022, at the shop in Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
Thee Only Shoe Repair
Mike Derouin, owner of Thee Only Shoe Repair, works on a customer's shoe Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022, at the shop in Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

Related Topics: RETAILBUSINESSROCHESTER
Theodore Tollefson is a business reporter for the Post Bulletin. He is originally from Burnsville, Minn., and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a bachelor's degree in journalism in December 2020. Readers can reach Theodore at 507-281-7420 or ttollefson@postbulletin.com.
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