Shoe Repair On Wheels

shoemakerlopezIf you’re in Los Angeles and need to repair your shoes, head over to (go to) Echo Park, to Lopez Shoe Repair. You won’t be disappointed.

To find Lopez Shoe Repair, first look for Señor Fish, a Mexican restaurant and bar. When you find it, Rafael Lopez’s shoe repair shop – a 1992 Chevrolet Astro van – should be parked not too far away.

Rafael is one of that group of people I introduced last time – people you don’t usually notice but that help make a city like Los Angeles strong.

Steve Lopez (no relation to Rafael) writes that Lopez and his wife owned a small shoe factory in Mexico. But when they came to Los Angeles more than thirty years ago, starting a shoe factory here was too expensive, so they began repairing shoes. They worked on sidewalks and street corners and wandered (moving around without a specific idea of where to) from place to place until they discovered Echo Park.

The Lopezes raised four children on money from repairing shoes. Two of them are in college. Rosario, who is working on her master’s degree, says that her parents “wanted us to do better than them and they wanted us to go to college.” Like many children, she says “she didn’t understand her parents’ sacrifice (not having something so you can get something that’s more important) when she was younger, but she greatly appreciates it now.”

Lopez and his wife separated several years ago. She has her own shoe repair van and parks it in another part of Los Angeles, near MacArthur Park.

Lopez tried sharing a small apartment, but that didn’t work out. So he bought another van – a 20-year-old GMC Safari – and lives in it. He sleeps on a mattress (soft part of a bed that you lie on) in the back of the van and watches a television set he has attached to the van’s ceiling. He uses the restroom at a McDonald’s. And a restaurant owner in the neighborhood lets him park his van in their parking lot every night.

He’s applied for a subsidized (part of the cost is paid by someone else) apartment, but it may take months, even years, before one becomes available.

Steve Lopez writes that Rafael Lopez could complain about a lot of things. He’s 71. He still has to work to survive. He often works 10 hours a day. His health isn’t as good as it used to be. He’s living in a van. But he refuses to complain.

He says that “Los Angeles is a great and beautiful place.” And, because of the work he does, he’s made a lot of friends. Some of them drop by from time to time to spend time with him.

“I’m surviving,” he says. “Work is good for your health.”

You can meet Rafael in this short video produced by Steve Lopez.

~ Warren Ediger – ESL coach/tutor and creator of the Successful English web site.

Adapted from a Los Angeles Times article by Steve Lopez.
Photo: screenshot from YouTube video.



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15 Responses to Shoe Repair On Wheels

  1. Aecio Flavio Perim says:

    Okay, Warren. Good story. Like in Brazil, Shoe repair is the same.

  2. peter says:

    Hi warren
    Such a uplifting story !

    Well , I don’t know about LA
    But ,up here ,in Toronto
    I don’t think such small, out-door businesses pick up.

    As far as I know, people around here don’t repair shoes, it cost almost as much as purchasing a new pair.
    I ,for one, never take my shoes to a shoe-repair shop.
    I polish them myself at home with the shoe polish kit I have.
    Once they are worn out , I toss them away.

    Besides ,it gets nasty , bitter cold around here for a big portion of the year which makes peddling , hawking ,soliciting and other sorts of side-walk businesses virtually impossible.
    Well, the only successful out door business around here ,near as I can tell, is the sausage stand.
    Well, they have been around as far as I can remember. As a matter of fact, they have become an inherent part of the city culture around here.
    In winter time , they usually cover the stand all over with canvas or tarp and put one portable heater inside.
    I ,like Jeff, love hot-dogs. Sadly , they never get as tasty when u barbecue them home.
    One think I like best about the sausage stand business is that they keep their originality ,their tradition.they never branch out to some other stuff. They just sell sausages. Well a large assortment of sausages ranging from hotdog to Italian sausages and then some.

    Y know,in Toronto ,most cobblers rather shoe makers has parlours on the subway stations where there is a high traffic of people. However , they offer other services as well along side shoe repairs. they copy and sell keys ,sell belts and some tinkers.

    U know ,Warren I m wondering one thing about the gentleman in blog post where does he exactly take a shower. I mean , u said about his washroom arrangement but bathing still is a mystery.

    U know as a business owner he must always look and smell fresh.
    A daily shower is not easy to manage who u live out of a car.

    I m Just saying
    One might wonder


  3. peter says:

    I just saw the vedio clip
    He looks strong and healthy for a 71 year old.
    He looks yonger than his age and free-spirited.


  4. peter says:

    Thank you Jeff for introducing us to the Nancy Drew.
    I got to it the minute U recommended it.
    Well , I looked a bit around Internet to find some free PDF of it but unfortunately I couldn’t find any.
    I checked the price of the books on Amazon. They , as u mentioned , must be very popular as All that I checked are 9 dollars above.
    So , I figured I listened to some samples and if I warmed up to the books I would get some.
    Guess what , I m listening to the sample of ” the secret of the old clock” and I must say it is growing on me.
    Very attractive story. I must say,I see Jeff’s point.
    they are well-read
    The flow is very good
    The story is charming
    and it is no verbose at all.
    Well , the price is a bit too steep for my blood. It is 8.99
    So, I figured I keep listening to the samples till the prices get slashed down.
    Amazon lowers its prices from time to time
    I happened to buy an audio book for one dollor whereas the original price was 11:99.

    I know Jeff strongly recommend to read books. I see his point.
    However, with due all respect Jeff, I think audiobooks serves us better than reading the actual books.
    The way I see it is that As in audio version of a book you get to listen to a native speaker narrates rather read out the boon to you.the advantage of it , the perk if you will, is that I get familiar with the right pronunciations of words and how they are uttered by native speakers.
    Whereas , when I am reading the actual book , I simply eliminate the advantage point.
    But , as u must have known by know. I never take Jeff’s advices lightly.
    So I came up with a solution that provides me with the best of both world.
    I follow along the narrater in the book word by word. That way I get to learn the rich pronunciations , spelling and intonation by which a native speaker express the words and expressions in the book.
    U know , to me pronunciation is of an utmost importance because one may know time of words but if their pronunciation of words are off people specially native speakers can not understand them.


  5. Dan says:

    Thank you Warren.

    Hope that Mr. Lopez’s wife is doing well too.


  6. Pooyan says:

    Thank you for your wonderful work here. your website and blogs are perfect. I have been learning a lot with not only your podcast but also with your blogs.

    thank you,

  7. Dan says:


    I am going out of topic with this. Sorry about that.

    It happened in California though.
    As I was listening to pod. 1157 describing nudity and stuff, it made me think
    about this prank someone did at a Target store where they played porn throughout the intercom.
    I saw the video. Did you guys?
    Reports say there were moms putting their hands over kids’ hears.


  8. peter says:

    Hey folks
    Jeff planed out my weekend this week 🙂
    I m gonna find a quite recess in a local Starbucks and burry myself in Nancy Drew books.
    I read first few pages and I must say : love it.
    Let me gives u some heads up:))
    Her father is a lawyer and always uses her intuition and that I believe intrigues her penchant for sleuthing 🙂

    Happy thanks giving Eslpod group
    Do u remember ,oh boy , 8-9 years ago in one of the early audio episodes you told us rather pictured us in details what is like thanksgiving party in your family.
    I m wondering if you are going back home or staying put.
    Your family Thanksgiving party must be fun with 11 siblings and their kids and grand children. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Man ,it sounds like more a wedding party in a banquet hall than a thanksgiving party in a privately own residence.

    I m not coming from a big family.
    A very small family ,in fact ,whose members are always worlds apart. One of us is always half way across the world.
    Well ,we have a thing for travel and adventure. It runs in the family.

    If u trace back the family tree of my family the lineage will definitely goes back to a pirate with a wooden leg and eye patch as my great great great grandfather :)))


  9. peter says:

    A fluff news.
    A fun trivia :
    A setting-record dimond has been mined out in Canada. It is roughly as big as tennis ball. It is 1111 carats.
    It is rated as the world’s second largest diamond. it was recovered last Monday. it weighs 222 grams.
    It is sth ,isn’t it.
    Well it comes second. The world’s largest one found in South Africa in 1905 and it is 3000 carats.


  10. peter says:

    Helo world,
    There is sth that I find very weired
    As u may know , Thanksgiving is marked every year in the U.S the last weekend of November which is next week.whereas ,in the neighbouring country ,Canada, we go through the whole shebang in October.

    Must it be marked rather observed on the same day universally ?
    Does it mean back in the day ,the pilgrims celebrated in different days depending where they lived.

    Every year towards the end of November the very question hits me. It bugs me for a bit and then slip through the cracks till the year after. And ,here we go, I m asking the same questio.
    I remember asking bolg the same question last year

    I agree. The question may sound stupid
    Humour me ,will you ?

    Anybody ?
    Come on guys


  11. Dan says:

    Hey Pete.

    Thank you for triggering me into learning more about thanksgiving.

    I am reading that is because of a decision the Canadian parliament took in 1957 due to Armistice day that fell during the same week.

    Think that we have something like that in Italy too, and I did not even knew that till five minutes ago.
    It is celebrated the second Sunday of November. I have never done that in my life.

    Thanks bye

  12. peter says:

    Armistice day has nothing to do with thanksgiving.
    We observe thanksgiving in mid OCT
    It doesn’t coincide with ” Remembrance Day”
    And The U.S. Commemorate thanks giving in the end of November
    Sorry lad
    But I don’t see any conflictung schedule here

    We could have perfectly mark the day ,like our counterparts in The U.S. In the end of November.

    U know to me Octobor sounds more thanksgivingy

    I don’t get it chum.


  13. Dan says:

    Yes Pete.

    But it did in the past.
    That’s why they moved thanksgiving to the mid of October.
    Previously to that it was during the first week of November.
    But due to Armistice Day they moved it back not to have two holidays the same first week of November.

  14. Aecio Flavio Perim says:

    Tomorrow I will have another podcast with a new subject, so I will learn more. Good for me.

  15. Aecio Flavio Perim says:

    Tomorrow has come and did the new podcast and eventually it was awesome.
    Thanks Jeff

Comments are closed.