Countless businesses have opened and closed in Manhattan Beach since 1934, but Manhattan Shoe Repair continues to thrive.
Bill Cotter still runs the business that was begun by his grandparents, John and Hilda Cotter, at 100 Center Street, as the Manhattan Shoe Hospital. They moved to its current location at 1010 Manhattan Ave. in 1940.
Bill Cotter started working at Manhattan Shoe Hospital when he was 12 years old. The name was changed to Manhattan Shoe Repair in 1992. Cotter said the family has repaired more than 550,500 shoes and boots since they opened 85 years ago.
“Most of the time the kids can't wait to get away from it,” said Cotter of the family business. “I came in here and loved it. I love the people, I love the location, I love what I do. It's instant gratification. People are always happy.... you get such a nice positive result from virtually everybody who walks through the door.”
Bill said his grandfather John, who was an electrician and wired movie theaters for sound in the late 1920s, was a “jack of all trades.” John was hit hard by the Stock Market crash. He and his wife eventually landed in Manhattan Beach, which was then the “poor cousin of the area,” according to Cotter.
“There wasn't a lot down here... it was a rural area with not much to offer,” Cotter said.
But at the time, the Pacific Electric Red Cars, which made their way from Los Angeles, made stops near the Strand in Manhattan Beach. So they opened their first location at 100 Center Street, at the current location of Shellback Tavern. But the business took a major hit when the trolleys stopped coming to the beach cities. Soon after, they moved to their current location in 1940.
Cotter's father, Grant, retired in 1995 when he turned 65, but he remained active in the business. Cotter took over ownership and his wife Kathy does the books. Now 65 himself, Cotter works solo on the shoes. He has cut his hours in recent years and offers fewer services, mostly “no muss, no fuss” easy repairs. But that doesn't mean he's not busy.
“At any given time, I can have at the heart of the season, during fall and winter, upwards of 500 pairs of shoes in here, half finished, half waiting to be finished,” Cotter said.
Manhattan Shoe Repair has several vintage repair machines still in use, including one his grandparents bought used in 1934. He has no plans of retiring the machines or himself. His three children have chosen their own career paths as he continues to work hard as his parents and grandparents before him.
“I still have 20 to 25 (years) to go,” Cotter said.
For more information, call (310) 376-7484, or visit manhattanshoerepairca.com.