Arlington, VA

It would be easy to blame closing down shop on COVID-19, but Jojo Tchalekian doesn’t. When Sam Torrey Shoe Service at 5267 Lee Highway closes on July 31 after 75 years in business, Tchalekian says it will be a long time coming.

Tchalekian is closing down the brick and mortar location that he and his father took over in 1986 from the original owners — who founded the store in 1945 — but he said he will continue to work on garment repairs remotely.

“I’ll still be resuming business, but not in the storefront,” Tchalekian said. “Everything is going to be online.”

Tchalekian is planning to move to the Outer Banks area of North Carolina. The closure had been in the works for a while, but Tchalekian admitted that coronavirus sped things along.

“We haven’t had much business in five months, which gave me the opportunity to clean up the backlog and I was able to do this now. It made more sense.”

Customers can keep in contact and send things in for work by contacting [email protected], though Tchalekian said that’s a holdover until he can get a new website and email up and running.

The Lee Highway community around the store is still the same one Tchalekian has known and loved since he took things over, but he said the nature of shoes have changed.

“Nothing’s really changed except for the industries; they’re making shoes different,” Tchalekian said. “They used to be a lot more leather, now it’s synthetics. That’s hurt our business a bit.”

Shoes were the “sole” of the business, with lots of gluing soles and heels and such back together, but the store has also provided a wide array of repairs to things like purses, belts, luggage and briefcases — fixing busted zippers and the like.

The impending closure has led to an outpouring on social media, as long-time customers lament the loss of a trusted local business.

“Everybody’s been sad and I totally get it,” Tchalekian said. “It was a tough decision but it was one that had to be done and now was the time to do it.”

Photo via Google Maps

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