Last Shoes breathes new life into an old tradition
Published Saturday, September 7, 2013 11:40AM CST Last Updated Tuesday, September 10, 2013 10:11AM CST
Cobbler and cordwainer aren’t titles you see on business cards too often. But Adam Finn, owner and shoemaker of Last Shoes, has a few old cards with those titles pinned to a board in his Riversdale Shop.
Finn’s background is in fine arts – ceramics, specifically – but one summer, out of work, he decided to take his curiosity with shoe making to the next level and landed an apprenticeship in Montreal. From there, he went to work at the famous Rino’s Italian Shoe Centre in Vancouver.
But Vancouver couldn’t hold Finn. He wanted to be home, near friends and family, in Saskatoon. When his brother put his house that was zoned for business up for sale, Finn bought it and came home and opened Last Shoes.
“The response has been amazing. I’m so happy to get to do what I love and stay in Saskatoon,” Finn said.
The shop is in a garage in his Riversdale home, and the tight space is completely taken over by supplies and equipment. Drawers of leather, walls of foot molds called lasts stretch across the length of the building, and tools are everywhere. Some equipment is nearly new, and some of it is as old as the early 19th Century.
Since coming home, Finn’s shop has had steady success. His business model isn’t like a walking into a shoe store in a mall. His shoes are custom designed and hand made.
“After we’ve talked about style and leather, I give you a file and take a deposit, and that sort of seals the deal and then I start the process,” he explained.
And the process? It takes at least three weeks for Finn to create a pair of shoes or boots. The lasts are modified to suit the measurements of his customers, and then he gets to work shaping soles, heels, and body of the boots.
A custom made shoe doesn’t come cheap. Because each pair he makes is different and requires different material and work, prices have a lot of variation. On average, Finn said a pair costs about $450.
His customer’s don’t seem to mind. Jordan Hamilton is a friend of Finn’s, and one of his first customers. Hamilton is a server at Weczeria restaurant, and works long hours on his feet. “There’s no pain at the end of the day, no throbbing, no dying to get them off after an 8 hour day. They’ve just been great,” he said of his custom black leather lace-up boots.
Naomi Friesen is one of Finn’s more recent clients. She’s always had trouble finding shoes. She has narrow feet, low arches, and bunions, so finding a comfortable pair is challenging. She saw a snippet about Last Shoes in a local publication and had to work hard to hunt him down. Eventually she found his Facebook page and set up a meeting to get a pair designed just for her.
The results have been wonderful, she said.
“I expect I’ll have these shoes for at least ten years, maybe more, because they’re built just for me,” she said with a smile.
She has a wish list for several more pairs in the future.
Ultimately, that’s exactly what Finn wants to see: happy and comfortable customers.
“When you're comfortable, you feel more confident. and when you're confident, I think the world is your oyster."