If you head into the basement of Vince DeVito Shoes, you might find Joel DeVito grappling with the same shoe repair machinery his great-grandfather Jimmy used when starting the business 90 years ago.
“We’re the fourth generation,” said the 25-year-old, who started working alongside his brother Matt approximately a month ago. “It’s pretty cool, the experience of it all. Ninety years is pretty big, especially for a local business.”
But calling it a local business isn’t quite correct—not only do they sell shoes, they also repair them. Their father Vince is a certified pedorthist with a clinic next door, and recently they’ve been tiptoeing into the world of online sales and repairs.
“We cover A-Z shoes and feet. We’re your one stop shop for everything foot-related,” said Matt.
And they’re looking to do more than just sell you shoes—they want to create a long-term relationship with the customer.
“We’ve tried bringing in fancier shoes and different things. That’s not what people come here for. They come here for the fit and for our expertise,” said Vince.
“We fit Bubba and Grandma that can’t get shoes anywhere else. They come here for fitting advice, for the history and the knowledge and the help. People trust our family history.”
That’s a history that started with Joel’s great-grandfather Jimmy’s location in Trail, which was taken over by his grandfather Buddy. Vince was the one who moved the location to Nelson on April 1, 1980.
“We’re celebrating our 36th anniversary in this community. There have been a lot of big changes, especially in the last ten years. We have a direction, though, we know where we want to be and we’re taking our time getting there.”
Vince said he feels invigorated by his sons’ energy.
“I’m still steering the ship, but the boys have great ideas. They’re energetic and young and when people come by they’re not looking for me anymore, they’re looking for Matt or Joel.”
They’re especially excited about their burgeoning online repair business. They have contacts with 14 stores across B.C. and have boot manufacturers using them as a source for shoe repair. The shoes are mailed to them, repaired, and then sent back.
“We must be the youngest cobblers in Canada,” Matt said.
Vince believes this is part of a trend back towards long-term footwear that can be repaired.
“It used to be Nelson had four shoe repairs at one time. That trend is returning, I think. People are buying shoes that are meant to be re-soled, re-heeled, repaired. People want quality and with a good pair of shoes they could last ten, 15 years.”
When asked what makes him proudest, DeVito had a tearful one-word answer: “family”.
“Blood runs deep. With Joey coming on now, it’s wonderful. We have a very close family and this just knits us that much tighter. It’s an Italian thing.”