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Partnership powers 30 years of success for shoe shop

Staff writer

Nearly 30 years operating a business together have taught Norma and Jim Horinek to make the best of their differences.

Jim is farsighted and Norma is nearsighted. He is a skilled craftsman who can fix nearly anything made of leather. She can sew and run with any idea.

“We always say we are salt and pepper,” she said. “Salt and pepper are not the same, but they are good together.”

The two have stayed “sole mates” through the decades they have spent repairing shoes and boots at Family Shoe Repair in Pilsen.

Their years together have taught them that “two heads are better than one,” Norma said. She and Jim are naturally artistic people who take pride in the wonders they work with their hands.

“I get what is worn out and go ahead and repair it and make it usable again,” said Jim over a cell phone held by Norma in the couple’s workshop.

“Also dear, you’re a people person. And you like talking to people, and helping them,” Norma said.

“Yeah,” Jim agreed.

Horinek learned his leather trade at Green Country Technology Center in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, graduating in 1986.

He and Norma moved to Pilsen in 1992, when he took a job as herdsman at Klassen dairy.

The couple opened the shop in 1993 and expanded in 2016, buying a defunct Salina business out of its equipment.

Norma learned the trade from Jim and now the two tackle everything from boot and saddle repair to leather harnesses on the shop’s curved-needle, straight and large-stitch sewing machines.

The COVID-19 pandemic cramped their style as it did with many other home-based operations.

The couple discontinued weekly pickup and deliveries in Abilene, Salina, Hutchinson, McPherson, and Newton when they became nervous about travel.

“We had to consolidate and just pull back,” she said, adding that Jim still works as a machinist at AGCO in Hesston. “We thought people can just come to us.”

Since then, many of their old customers have found their way to Pilsen along with new ones from Wichita and Salina, drawn by their reputation.

“We use the best material and repair supplies that we can

possibly buy,” Jim said. “When customers get their shoes they have a better sole than they had.”

Repairs at the shop are about $60 and usually take a week, but prices can vary, Norma said.

“We try to make it affordable for people,” she said. “But sometimes, we can’t do the work for what they want to pay.”

If they can, the Horineks will repair a customer’s shoes or boots while they wait.

They enjoy their reputation as “miracle workers” who tackle tough fixes, but some cheap, mass-produced goods can only be thrown away.

“We came across where they actually used newspaper as filler for the insides of shoes,” Norma said. “People have no idea how many of their shoes are paper.”

Luckily most Kansans still appreciate a quality pair of boots, even if they do get beat up.

“If you’ve got a good pair of boots, you’re good,” she said.

Family Shoe Repair is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Inquire about appointments at (620) 924-5561.

Last modified March 11, 2021

 

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