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The Shoe Doctor | Saving Shoes One Sole at a Time

Mark Meschinelli has dedicated his life to the art of resurrection. At this small shop in downtown Plattsburgh, Meschinelli is reviving the lost art of shoe repair by way of resoling that favorite pair of climbing shoes.

(DoNorth/Mike Herring)

Mark Meschinelli has dedicated his life to the art of resurrection. At this small shop in downtown Plattsburgh, Meschinelli is reviving the lost art of shoe repair by way of resoling that favorite pair of climbing shoes.

As an avid rock climber of 40 years, Meschinelli is no stranger to the woes of a worn-out shoe. He comes from a long line of Plattsburgh based cobblers, and quickly recognized the demand for a very specific type of repair: climbing shoes. As an experienced climber himself, it comes as no surprise that people from all over would trust their beloved (and expensive, sometimes costing more than $300) climbing shoes in the hands of man with such undeniable skill.

Coming from a family of cobblers, he is the third generation owner of The Plattsburgh Shoe Hospital, which has been operating downtown since 1934. Meschinelli officially took over the business when he was 35 years old.

He learned everything he knows about resoling shoes from his father.  The “climbing stuff,” on the other hand, he taught himself.

“We were always looking for a harder way to get up the mountain,” he says. This is how his passion for rock climbing started. Since then, his love for climbing has not dwindled, but has only been increased by the appreciation he feels for the climbing community.

“Luckily, climbing shoes are still made of rubber and leather.” Meschinelli says. “They’re repairable. Regular shoe repair is kind of gone.” To him, focusing on such a specialized field of shoe repair has helped him and his family significantly.  “I wouldn’t be open,” he says. “I wouldn’t be here [without climbing shoes].” But, it’s not just that Meschinelli can fix climbing shoes – it’s that he can fix them well. SUNY Plattsburgh expeditionary studies professor Casey Henley has been trusting his shoes to Meschinelli for years.

“Mark is great!” Henley begins. “His resoling work is excellent, and I always take my shoes to him. The end-product shows superb craftsmanship, and it’s always a pleasure catching up with him when I go into the shop.”

Near an old grey Singer sewing machine, surrounded by spools of different colored thread, Meschinelli is resoling a pair shipped from California. On the shelf waiting for a second shot at life is a pair from Bozeman, Montana. Today he has shipped out 13 pairs (mostly in New England). He is well-known and highly respected. Meschinelli is certainly grateful for all the work.

The worn wooden shoe-rack overflows; soles eagerly awaiting their chance at a new life. The shoes spill off the shelves onto any flat surface; the desk and rolling office-chair functioning temporarily as extra storage space.

No matter how busy Meschinelli gets, he still finds time to get out on the rocks.

“People like to see me out there, and they know I’m a climber who’s repairing their shoes. They seem to trust me a little more” he says.

Standing at a large table top, Meschinelli is custom cutting rubber to fit to a climbing shoe. Barely looking up from his work, he chuckles.

“It’s interesting how climbing has kind of saved this business because if it wasn’t for all the climbers bringing their shoes in, I would’ve been closed a long time ago.” He picks up a light green climbing shoe and checks the size against a freshly cut piece of rubber.

“It’s funny how climbing has kind of saved me in that respect…it’s almost killed me too, but it never happened, thank god,” he laughs. “The whole community of climbers supporting what we do here. It’s pretty cool.”

Sole wearing thin? Plan a trip down to the Plattsburgh Shoe Hospital. The doctor is in.

Issue 10: Winter/Spring 2018

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