MEET YOUR NEIGHBOR: Jean Chamoun, 55
Jean Chamoun mastered the art of saving soles long ago and will settle for nothing less than perfection.
“If I don’t do something good, I would feel sad,” said Chamoun, also known as “Mr. Shoe.”
He and his wife have a shoe repair business (Mr. Shoe Repair and More) at 612 Lucerne Ave. in Lake Worth. Patrons, who trickle in and hang around for friendly conversation and sage shoe repair advice amidst the scent of leather and polish, rave about his work.
“He is such a pro and his work is so good,” said customer Robert Pacheco of West Palm Beach. “He can build a shoe from the ground up. He can design them. He can fix anything. People need to know he is here.”
Of course, there has been a shoe repair business at the Lucerne Avenue location for more than three decades. Chamoun and his wife, Mona, took over the business three years ago. But the previous owner had cut back on his hours and customers thought it was closed, Mona Chamoun said.
Chamoun, who lives in Greenacres, has been repairing shoes almost all his life and also designs and builds shoes and repairs handbags, replaces zippers (in shoes or purses). He has rebuilt Louis Vuitton purses and handles all kinds of special requests – like converting a man’s entire cowboy boot collection into regular shoes, or making a muzzle for a woman’s over-zealous barking dog.
“I can do just about anything,” Chamoun said. “Ninety-nine percent of shoes can be repaired. If they can’t, I will tell you.”
When he finishes resoling and heeling a pair of shoes, Chamoun brands the sole with his initials – JC.
He learned his craft from his uncle while growing up in Zahalé, Lebanon, a picturesque city set between two mountains 35 miles east of Beirut.
“I learned to make shoes from scratch,” he said. “He taught me everything in a year and a half. I learned very fast. I did a good job.”
For a while, Chamoun had his own shoe shop in a basement in Zahalé, but in 1988, in the midst of a civil war, the Chamouns moved to the U.S.
“We were surrounded by war and that made it very difficult when I had to go to Beirut for supplies,” he said.
The Chamouns, who have one son (Tony, 24) spent several years in Massachusetts before moving to Florida in 1991 to work in a bakery owned by Mona Chamoun’s family. After the bakery closed, the couple seized an opportunity to buy the shoe repair business.
“In Massachusetts, I found a job in three days doing repair work. Even though I didn’t speak English, the cobbler said I doubled their business every week. They were very happy with me.”
Chamoun is still making people happy, his wife of 25 years said. “He has been blessed with extreme skill.”
And a passion for saving soles.
What are your hobbies?
In Lebanon, I liked to hunt birds, but I don’t have a chance to do that much anymore. I love nature, spending time in the backyard, and planting things like mango trees.
What is your fondest childhood memory?
I loved getting presents and got interesting things. Once, I got a pigeon. I had everything. I had a great relationship with my grandfather.
If you could change jobs with someone, what would it be?
In the old country, I was very athletic and I wanted to be a top competitor in karate.
Is there something people don’t now about you that would surprise them?
Not really. I am pretty much what you see.