Business of the Month: Yakub Shoe Repair, 229 Sullivan Street
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Low prices, high quality, and a unique personality keep customers coming back to the tiny shoe repair shop of Yakub Maksumov, a cobbler whom one fan dubbed “the Uzbek Stanley Tucci.”
Yakub Shoe Repair is long and narrow, somehow also fitting a dry cleaner in front, run by Fannie Lin, and a locksmith business, run by Yakub’s son, Arthur. Born in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, Maksumov learned the trade as a child from his father, a shoemaker. He immigrated to New York in 1989 and opened his first cobbler shop on Sullivan Street a few years later, moving into the current location just a few years after that. He has six older brothers, all of whom also run shoe repair shops in New York City.
One of our Business of the Month nominators wrote, “At a time when shoe repair shops are going out of business left and right, Yakub becomes even more precious. He has been my family’s shoe repair man for almost 20 years. He is amazing and caring and regularly saves the day repairing zippers, replacing soles, stitching wallets, helping neighborhood vendors, etc.” She commended his “pride in his work and excellence of craftwork. When Yakub repairs something, it is fixed. He is also highly skilled and made fine shoes … before emigrating to the U.S.”
According to Arthur, the prices his father charges haven’t changed in years, remaining lower than those of comparable shops. His reliable work consistently draws locals, lures celebrities (or their assistants), and earns accolades like inclusion on this list of The 10 Best Shoe Repair Shops in NYC.
Where other small business owners may know their patrons by name or face, Arthur says his father knows people “by their shoes, really. It’s funny, but that’s how he knows them.” Some customers destroy their shoes, while others have unusual requests, like the man who wanted a presentable office shoe built around his comfortable sneaker. “He tends to know them by the kind of work he does for them.”
Wrote another Business of the Month nominator: “The owner is a pleasant man with a wry sense of humor. He’s very easy to deal with, and seems always in a positive frame of mind. This makes the business at hand so much easier and more pleasant!” Yakub was not in a talkative mood, however, when Off the Grid visited, thus his son’s filling in some background. The Maksumovs are a close family, with three generations living together in Queens. Spending so much time on Sullivan Street, though, “We basically come home to eat and sleep, that’s it,” Arthur said.
He grew up in the store, and on the block. The Maksumovs know the other shopkeepers and neighbors. Arthur, 28, has seen the neighborhood change from “kind of a rock scene, to Europeans looking at art galleries, and now it’s like a school campus, very young. Compared to how it was, it accommodates more of the NYU situation, rather than accommodating the residents.”
The landlord has been “the nicest person” since day one though, says Arthur. “That’s really what’s keeping us there, is the fact that we have a good relationship with the landlord.”
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