Jerry's Shoe Service608 Main Street East Orange, NJ 07018   1969-1998


A Dream Come True For Onetime Shoe Shine Boy

Hard work, determination, the encouragement of a Landis shoe repair machinery representative, and a Small Business Administration loan have combined to make a dream come true for a former North Carolina shoe shine boy.

Gerald Hamm, owner of Jerry's Shoe Service in Orange, New Jersey, in business only six months, has confidence in his ability to succeed, but doesn't let it overshadow his appreciation for those who have been his benefactors.

"If it hadn't been for my mother's love and encouragement, it's hard to say what I'd be doing today", Hamm says. "My dad didn't like the idea of my being a shoe shine boy because it was too dirty. But my mother said the dirt washed off and it was an honest way to earn money". Exposure to the shoe service business made Hamm all the more determined to someday have his own business. It led him to a trade school in North Carolina and eventually to his first job as a full-fledged shoe serviceman.

A brother in New Jersey and the prospects for self-improvement were the magnets that drew him north.

HIS FIRST JOB was working in a factory. He worked part-time as a shoe serviceman, making more money than he did on his full-time job. He quit the factory and took a second part-time job with another shoe repair shop. His training and experience finally led to management of a shoe repair department in a large department store. Hamm's hard work did not go for naught.

"After 15 years of experience, part of it in management, I made up my mind that I wanted to go into business for myself. I casually mentioned it to a policeman friend of mine, "Hamm says, and he suggested I discuss it with the Small Business Administration". It was here that Bill Lynch, Landis representative for the metropolitan New York area, entered the picture.

"Bill knew my background, knew that I was dependable, and he knew what I wanted to accomplish. He was very patient with me, counseled me, and really had more confidence in my ability to succeed than I did". Hamm recalls. Rebuffed in his first attempt to gain help from the SBA, Hamm persisted. "I guess I finally convinced them I meant business", Hamm says.

When the first ray of hope came from the SBA, Hamm made the down payment on his equipment, paid three months' store rent in advance, painted his shop, and purchased supplies... all before the final loan papers were signed.

With Lynch's guidance, Hamm purchased a new Landis three-motor Jet Finisher with Naumkeag; a rebuilt Model "K" Stitcher; a Model 88A Stitcher; a Model 25 Bench Machine, and a Model CC Regular Jack and Lasts. Hamm says his next piece of equipment will be a Landis Bench Sander.

Hamm is sincere in his efforts to provide the kind of service he feels his customers need. "For example," he says, "I try to talk my customers out of a half-sole job. When I explain why, I usually get the job". He estimates that 15% of his work is in half-soles with some 20% devoted to full soles. He expects that percentage to climb significantly. Top lifts account for about 15% of his volume. Rubber heels make up a majority of his sales estimated at 35%, with leather heels accounting for an additional 5%. Shoe dyeing is responsible for some 10% of the total, Hamm says.

"I try to do a little bit of everything", Hamm says. "I repair a lot of bowling jackets and bags, sew buttons on leather jackets, and mend briefcases".

TO SUPPLEMENT HIS INCOME, Hamm handles a line of pre-packaged ladies' hosiery and makes keys. "Both are impulse items," Hamm says, "and it's a simple matter to earn extra profits I wouldn't have otherwise". Business is so good, enough for Hamm that he already has one part-time shoe serviceman and a shoe shine boy after school.

"The growth in population in this area has had an effect on my business too, "Hamm says. "Not long ago, it was easy to rent a house in Orange. Now it's hard to find a place to live".

On the other side of the coin, Hamm says, heavy factory employment is the area submits his business to more than the normal ups and downs in the economy. "Many of my customers are the first to get laid off when things are tight".

One of the greatest problems facing shoe servicemen, in Hamm's opinion, are foreign imports. "Most of the shoes being imported today aren't worth repairing," Hamm says. "And, in many cases, the shoes are of such low quality they can't be repaired anyhow".

When Hamm gets enthusiastic, which just comes naturally, everything is "out of sight".

And that's how he views his future and the future of the shoe service business in general.... "out of sight!" .
  • Full or Half Soles
  • Taps
  • Heels and Lifts for Women's Shoes
  • Keys made
  • Shoe Laces
  • Shoe Dye
  • Boots, Men & Women's Shoes, Leather Jackets

Our Partners