Salt Spring has a new business for shoes, leather accessories, and repairs. Shepherd Shoes is a repair service for shoes, purses, horse tack, and marine gear.
This new business, creating footwear and accessories, completes a circle in the life of John Shepherd. Having moved to Salt Spring last October, John has reunited himself with his passion for designing and making shoes and leather accessories.
Back in his early twenties, John started doing leatherwork and, for six years, trained as a shoemaker. He then went to university and turned to the hotel industry. For the last few years, he has been making shoes by hand on a part-time basis while working in hotel and event management.
But 2016 was an eventful year for John. In March, a major fire in downtown Nanaimo destroyed his entire workshop. Everything was lost, save one shoemaker's hammer that was recovered by one of the fire fighters. In May of the same year, he went to Europe for five months to work with shoemakers and designers in Florence and London. He also spent some time with a master saddle maker in the south of France. In October, he moved to Salt Spring and created a new workshop over the winter. He opened for business this past Spring.
Stepping into the shop of Shepherd Shoes, you discover a style that is discreetly refined. John creates shoes, sandals, belts and purses that reflect a strong influence of classic European craftsmanship. He also collaborates with Zoë Fox at Thrive Lifestyle. They have made some totes together and are working on a line of women's shoes that will be sold at Thrive and at their Saturday Market booth.
When you are at his shop, check out the Zand Amsterdam wrap skirts. An ingenious practical design, they are well-made with colourful fabrics. The skirts can be worn four different ways and come with a matching small purse.
While working on his business plan, he became aware that there was a strong demand for a repair service on Salt Spring. Since opening at the end of March, John has completed over 160 repairs to everything from shoes, sandals, and purses to saddles and sail covers.
I was drawn to write a story about Shepherd Shoes because, in an era where plastic footwear can be bought for mere dollars and discarded without hesitation because a new pair is so cheap, shoe repair has been a dying trade. And shoe repairers have been fading into our past just as quickly.
Like many people, I have a small pile of quality, leather shoes that are still quite good despite a worn heel or a broken zipper. It can be difficult to put a “nearly good” leather shoe in the landfill. It just doesn’t seem right! And, I’m sure some would agree, but there’s nothing like getting a few more years out of an old pair of softened favourites.
In my fascination to herald the arrival of a shoe repair business, I discovered an amazing amount of talent and style in the original work of John Shepherd. So, take your favourite broken shoes to Shepherd Shoes at 320A Upper Ganges Road. You will find it behind the Home Design Centre, across the street from Merchant Mews. Hours are:
- Monday - By appointment (call 250-931-3003)
- Tuesday through Friday - 10:00AM to 6:00PM
- Saturday - at the Market (directly in front of the restaurants in Gasoline Alley)