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A weblog about the politics and affairs of the old and glorious City of Albany, New York, USA. Articles written and disseminated from Albany's beautiful and historic South End by Daniel Van Riper. If you wish to make a response, have anything to add or would like to make an empty threat, please contact me.


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November 23, 2017

A Tale Of A Busted Zipper

A recent visit to Lev’s Leather and Shoe Repair shop

Sometime in the early 1990s The Wife and I were walking the length of the massive Pyramid Corporation Aviation Mall up in Glens Falls.  There must have been a specific reason but I can’t remember why, perhaps The Wife was looking for computer accessories. Hanging out in malls is something I rarely do.  And it occurs to me that would have been the first and last time I’ve ever gone to that soul sucking place, I recall thinking at the time as I walked and walked that there was very little in there of any interest to me.

All of a sudden, somewhere past the second food court, I saw something I wanted very badly.  The Wilson’s Leather Shop was having a massive storewide sale on black leather jackets.  I was like okay, as much as I hate spending money inside a building that belongs to the evil owners of Crossgates Mall I couldn’t just walk past an opportunity like this.

The salesman tried to steer me toward one of these ridiculous looking jackets with all these useless studs and metal chains hanging off of them, a sort of ready-made punk look.  Those dumb looking things were displayed all over the place, it seems that was what the store was most desperate to get rid of.  But I brushed aside the hard sell because I knew exactly what I wanted, and I walked out of the store with a plain black jacket with a detachable liner for cold weather that cost half price.

Lev In His Shop With My Jacket
Lev In His Shop With My Jacket

I was mighty happy with my purchase.  It makes me look respectable, no mean feat, and even though we are almost eighteen years into a new century and I am a bit heftier than I was way back then, I still wear the jacket throughout the cold season.  It cuts the wind nicely, and if I wear long underwear and zip the liner inside the jacket I can endure extreme cold without getting all bulky.  It makes me look like a cool guy and broadcasts to store clerks that I have purchasing power and thus they need to treat me decently.  

And it never goes out of style.  Some may object because my jacket is made of, you know, cows, which are living things and thus in some fashion dimly sentient.  Well please consider this.  The alternative to leather is that I wear a jacket made of petroleum that may have been fracked out of the ground, probably having poisoned somebody’s drinking water and arrived at the artificial fabric making factory either through intrusive leaking pipelines or by explosive rail cars.  

I go with the cow because cows are a renewable resource and produce a much stronger and longer lasting fabric than petroleum does.  Also, I can assure you that many times over the years I have thanked the cows that went into this jacket for their sacrifice. As far as I’m concerned they did not die for nothing.

So imagine my deep distress when I put on my jacket for the first time this season a few weeks ago and the zipper busted after I tried to zip it up.  All of the teeth came loose, but the damn slider was stuck in the middle of my torso so that the jacket flaps were flapping stupidly above and below the slider. I had no choice but to stand there in a parking lot next to my truck and pull it over my head to get it off.

Lev In His Shop With My Jacket
Lev’s Shop On Central Avenue In Albany

As soon as I was done with my errand I zipped over to Lev’s shoe repair shop on Central Avenue in Albany right by the Hoffman Car Wash.  I had taken this jacket twice before to Lev over the years, once to replace the zipper and once I think to repair a seam that had come undone.  He took care of these problems quickly and excellently, and polished up the jacket so it looked spiffy again.

And quite a few times The Wife has taken shoes to Lev to be resoled, such as her beloved maryjanes which are not that easy to find anymore.  She even once brought him a computer laptop bag made of some sort of fancy fabric derived from petroleum.  The seams had come undone, Lev put it back together and eight years later she still uses it.

But alas!  When I got to Lev’s shop that day it was closed, it seems he is now only open two days a week, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 7 in the morning to 7 at night.  This was a Friday.  Can you imagine how utterly devastated I was.  I had to have my old jacket, what could I do?

I briefly considered looking for another leather shop.  There are several other shoe repair places around but I despaired of finding one that would want to do my jacket, and who knows if I could have trusted someone else to do as good a job as Lev.  There was simply no practical choice for me, I’d have to wait and in the meantime I would have to clothe myself in much less stylish cold weather wear.

Part Of The Interior Of Lev’s Shop
Part Of The Interior Of Lev’s Shop

So the following Tuesday I brought the jacket to his shop, I had to wait a few minutes behind an elderly lady who was dropping off a pair of shoes to be repaired.  I heard him tell her that she could pick up the shoes the following Wednesday because on the following Tuesday he had to take his mother to a doctor’s appointment in the middle of the day.  So it looked like it would be another eight days before I could have my jacket back, but I was not going to complain.

Lev always demands a deposit on everything dropped off to be repaired, he will tolerate no items that he had worked on not being claimed and littering up his shop.  However, The Wife tells me that when she dropped off her computer bag that time he told her she didn’t need to leave a deposit.  “I’m not worried,” he said to her, “you’re gonna be back for that.”  Hey, I wasn’t going to forget about my jacket, you betcha.  But he made me pay a deposit anyway.

The Wife With Her Computer Bag Repaired By Lev
The Wife With Her Computer Bag Repaired By Lev

To be sure Lev’s prices have gone up quite a bit, when I first stopped in like 20 years ago he was way cheap.  In fact I remember thinking at the time he was underpriced.  Well, he seems to have rectified that.  Besides, judging by the pile of stuff behind the counter waiting to be picked up it was evident that he had plenty of business and didn’t have to be underpriced anymore.

But his prices are just fine.  I mean, if I could even find another jacket of similar style and quality it would probably today cost like four times what I originally paid for it.  The idea here is to not waste perfectly good quality clothing that can be repaired, the Rapp Road Dump is big enough already. And besides, repairing it shows respect for the cows who sacrificed their skins and their very lives so I could be comfortable and casually hip.

So on Wednesday the day before Thanksgiving I picked up my jacket.  Lev demanded the ticket he’d given me which I fished out of my wallet.  It seems this procedure was necessary, to my surprise there were a couple of jackets behind the counter that looked a lot like mine.  Turned out mine was in a bag hanging under the window, he pulled it out and spread it on the counter.

He had replaced the zipper with an identical strong brass one, and had provided a patch for the tear inside the detachable liner.  In addition he had polished up the jacket which we had not even discussed doing.  Indeed the only times that jacket has ever been cleaned up and polished are the three times I’ve taken it to Lev’s.  I think about doing it myself now and then but that’s as far as I get.

Lev And His Cash Register
Lev And His Cash Register

Time to pay, I asked him hopefully if I could give him a credit card.  He looked at me steadily over the glasses perched on his nose and solemnly shook his head no.  I said, “Cash only?”  He just as solemnly nodded his head yes and then gestured to his left.  “Look at my cash register,” he said.  “How could I take credit cards?”  It is indeed a vintage antique machine, they sure don’t make them like that anymore.

Actually I understand that well.  I know of several small businesses that I frequent that don’t accept credit cards because the corporations that process them are seriously expensive operations that gouge the little guys.  I don’t take credit cards in my own business because all too often it would cost more to keep the service than I would collect.  It’s just another way that big corporations maintain an advantage over small businesses.

Lev let me take a few pictures of him and his shop.  I tried to interview him but he wasn’t too forthcoming, he gave me the impression that he was too busy and wanted to get back to work.  I asked how long he’d had his shop in this location, he said 30 years.  I asked him when he arrived in this country from Russia, he said 30 years.  Okay, that was that.

I’ll bet he has an interesting story to tell if he is ever so inclined to tell it, but maybe he doesn’t want to.  I do know he was an expert craftsman when I first visited his shop way back in the 1990s, clearly he learned and mastered his profession in the old country.  And clearly he immediately discerned that there was a need for his talents here in Albany, a void that needed to be filled by an immigrant.

The Blogger With His Jacket And Dotika
The Blogger With His Jacket And Dotika

I have my jacket back, it looks better than it has in years.  The new zipper catches a little but I expect that will loosen up.  Now I have no more fear of the cold and the wind when I go outdoors, bring it on.  Plus I’m stylish and respectable again, or at least as much as can be expected.

. . . Oh and by the way.  Does this article count as advertising on my blog?  Well I guess it does.  I highly recommend giving Lev your business if you need your shoes or leather jacket or computer bag repaired.  But I can assure you that I have not accepted or solicited so much as one penny for this endorsement.  I just like to support local small businesses like this one, that’s all.


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