At age 72, Larry Green is still a sole man.
For him, there’s no business like shoe business.
At his age, most folks are working hard at their favorite hobby, or just enjoying visits from their great-grandchildren.
But Green is still focused on turning out quality work at his boot and shoe repair shop just off the square in Glen Rose.
“If you give the quality to start with, they won’t have as many complaints,” said Green, who owns and operates Green’s Shoe Repair and Leathercraft at 111 Southwest Barnard Street.
Whether you need a new sole, heal, stitches or all of the above, Green’s still the man for the job in Glen Rose.
Green learned the business at his father’s shoe repair shop in Corsicana starting when he was nine years old.
“When I started, I liked working with my dad,” Green said. “I started out shining shoes. My family had a shop there for 80-something years. I bought him out in 1966.”
Green noted that between the mid-1940s and the 1950s, Corsicana had 13 different leather and shoe repair shops. His father’s shop once employed 13 boot and shoe repairmen and 10 shoeshine boys.
Green originally wanted to find a job that didn’t have to keep him confined indoors.
“I like to work outside, really,” Green said. “It just didn’t work out that way. The repair business was what I knew best — that and saddle repair.”
Green said that he got plenty of shoe-shining work in those early days at his father’s shop because so many migrant workers wanted the service. He said he averaged shining 100 shoes on Saturdays for 20 cents a pair, working from 5 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. He said that the only break he got in those days was for water — with no lunch.
Green eventually served in the Army and the National Guard and achieved the rank of first lieutenant by the time he left the military in the late 1960s.
He worked in appliance repair for about a year and a half before moving to Athens to open his own Western store, complete with “saddles and everything,” said Green, who has been married to his wife, Rita, since 1964. “I sold the Western store in 1988 and kept the repair business.”
He opened his shop in Murchison, a town of about 480 people five miles outside of Athens, in 1970.
The Greens made a trip to Glen Rose in 1999 and came away loving the experience.
“Everybody was so nice, and on the way home we decided we wanted to move here,” Green said.
The Greens opened their repair shop on Highway 67 across from Debbie’s Restaurant, where it stayed for about three years. The downtown location opened on July 4, 2002.
Green had his shop in Athens for more than 32 years, and some of his customers still ship him their shoes and boots to be repaired.
“I’ve been doing some of their boots since they were five years old,” Green said, adding that he has done repairs for people from all over the country, as well as the Philippines, Germany and Australia along the way.
In addition to shoe and boot repair, Green makes leather goods such as suspenders, gun belts, cell phone cases and billfolds. He sells merchandise for people who love leathercraft hobbies.
About 65 percent of his work involves repair these days, and the rest is retail sales.
Green said he tried making a single pair of boots, and “figured out I made more money fixing them. The same way with saddles. It took about 125 hours to make a saddle, and $800 in materials. Now it would probably cost $12,000-$15,000 in material — if you could find it. Most people got out of the business.”
It’s a whole new ballgame now. Green estimated that 90 percent of the boots sold in the U.S. nowadays are made with poor quality leather from China. Green rejects the idea of using inferior quality.
“There’s none of them that are good quality anymore,” Green stated. “You can’t fix them.
“That’s the reason I won’t teach a young man how to repair them. It would be a waste of time because he can’t make a living at it. There’s not quality out there anymore.”
Making suspenders had been steady business for Green, but last year he couldn’t find the right material and temporarily was unable to supply the demand.
The situation with inferior leather quality is beyond Green’s control, and he’s not happy about it.
“All it would take to turn it around is quality in manufacturing goods. It’s worth a little more,” Green said. “I get mad because I have to buy the same stuff, and I don’t want to buy junk. That’s the main thing — I want to please my customers and give them the best quality I can, for the money.”
He discovered a new leather company in Arlington, so lately he’s been getting better quality leather to work with than he had for several years.
Despite the challenges in the repair business, Green said it doesn’t change what he feels are the most important issues — timeless topics like friends, family and faith in Christ.
“I don’t worry about getting rich,” said Green, who was the 10th of 11 children in his family. “I worry about having friends — and not Facebook friends. A friend is somebody you can depend on. Whether you are up or down, they are always there for you.
“I grew up in a time of family. There wasn’t as much to do. When the sun went down, we went to bed. I guess I’m just more of a family person than anything. I believe in family.”