By Paul Burton

NATICK (CBS) – In a tiny 250 square foot storefront in downtown Natick, a rare and special craftsman is not so busy at work. “Business is almost dead,” said Oleg Abamelak, owner of Cobbler Shop West on Pond Street.

He said the coronavirus pandemic decimated his shoe repair shop business. He said on some days he gets no customers in the store. “Usually on Saturday I used to have 20 to 30 customers, last Saturday only four the whole day,” he said.

The leftover repaired shoes all set to go tells the story of customers who have left their belongings behind. “We try to survive. I usually have like a bunch of shoes here. I have one or two pair right now. The 90% shoes on the shelf is before corona. In February, it slowed down. I call people every week but very few come to pick up,” Oleg said.

Oleg Abamelak, owner of Cobbler Shop West in Natick (WBZ-TV)

Oleg said he’s not alone. He says his other cohorts in the cobbler business are feeling the same pain.

These days he’s expanded his line of work. You name it. He will repair it including baseball gloves, horse riding equipment and leather jackets. “We take here any kind of job,” he smiled.

On Tuesday, Gary Atlas came to pick up his 35-year-old guitar strap. “I like to favor our local retailers and craftsman so when there is an opportunity to use someone such as this we definitely go for it. Whether it’s a shoe or handbag; it’s spot on,” Atlas said.

After being in business for more than 30 years and working six days a week, Oleg said he has no plans of retiring soon, but he does hope his customers will return. “I like to see my customers back and business to pick up. This is why I come to work,” he smiled.

Paul Burton

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