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News / Business / Working in Clark County

Working in Clark County: Ron Wells, cobbler

By Mary Ricks, Columbian News Assistant
Published: December 1, 2014, 12:00am
4 Photos
Photos by Steven Lane/The Columbian
Cobbler Ron Wells repairs a boot at Corner Cobbler Shoe Repair in Vancouver.
Photos by Steven Lane/The Columbian Cobbler Ron Wells repairs a boot at Corner Cobbler Shoe Repair in Vancouver. Photo Gallery

Ron Wells has been repairing shoes most of his life. I am always learning something new, he says. Educating the public about repairing shoes instead of buying new is a challenge. Shoes are not a throwaway product, he says.

Ron Wells.

Job/employer: Wells has owned Corner Cobbler Shoe Repair, 608 N. Devine Road, since May 22, 1995. Wells also repairs other leather goods such as cases and handbags.

Age: 47.

Education/professional background:
I worked for Keil’s Food Store while in high school. The store was sold soon after I graduated from Columbia River High School in 1985. I needed work and I had a friend whose dad and grandfather were in the shoe-repair business. The grandfather, a shoe builder, had emigrated from Hungary and had a shop at Lloyd Center in Portland, and I went to work for them. I served a five-year apprenticeship to be a journeyman cobbler. After my apprenticeship, I stayed on at the shop. I was there for about 10 years.

After the grandfather and father died, others in the family were ready to get out of the business. I learned there was a shop for sale in Vancouver. The shop I bought first opened at Tower Mall in 1970. The owner relocated the shop in 1976 to Devine Road.

An interesting note, my mother told me when she was working on our family’s genealogy, she learned that my great-grandfather had owned a general store in Iowa or Illinois. He was known for his saddle-making abilities. I guess working with leather skipped a couple of generations but then it settled with me.

Most rewarding part of job: I find I am always learning. You will never know everything about a shoe.

Most challenging part of job: Educating the public that you can repair shoes cheaper than buying new if you buy quality shoes. Shoes are not a throwaway product. If you use care and a bit of repair, your shoes will last a long time.

Personal/business philosophy:
Good customer service. It may sound like a cliché, but treat your customers as you would like to be treated. Appreciate them by doing the best work you can do and use the best products you can.

Something you would like to do over: I have no regrets whatsoever. I love the day-to-day challenges. It is gratifying when someone is shocked or amazed at what we have been able to do for them.

Burton neighborhood.

Best feature of my Vancouver community: I have seen Vancouver grow a lot, but it still has a small town feel, which I love. I like the genuine sincerity of the people.

What would make your community a better place: I have done work for Nordstrom in Vancouver and have other corporate accounts, too. Vancouver would be a better place if the Vancouver Nordstrom store wasn’t closing. That store has been such a staple at the mall.

Favorite restaurant/pub/coffee shop/store: I am a homebody. I love Duck Tales Kitchen and River Maiden Coffee House, both steps away from my shop.

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I restore, collect and show antique farm engines.

Volunteer activities:
I have donated to Shoes 4 the Shoeless program.

Favorite travel destination: Oregon Coast.

Most interesting book in last 12 months: My most favorite book in the last couple of years is “Lone Survivor” by U.S. Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell about his time in Afghanistan.

Most interesting play/movie/arts event: A couple of years ago I saw the play “A Christmas Story” in Seattle.

One thing you want to do this year: I would like to take a vacation with my wife and boys.

Something you want to do within five years: Possibly have a second location.

One word to describe yourself: Dedicated.

Person you’d most like to meet: Gene Simmons (of the rock band Kiss).

What’s in a boot:
Years ago a gentleman brought in a pair of boots to be repaired. I couldn’t get the boots to fit on the stand when I was ready to repair them. There seemed to be something stuck in the toe of the boot. I pulled out a jewelry box with a diamond ring inside. I quickly called the man to tell him I had found a ring in his boot. He didn’t seem shocked or excited, just said, “Oh, that’s where I put it.” The engagement ring was reported to be worth about $20,000.

Columbian News Assistant