Sole Man wins gold in national cobbler competition

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- Brian Gavigan spent more than a decade working in advertising until a chance opportunity changed his life.

“My brother had mentioned that there was a shoe repair shop that may have been looking for a new owner. The next day I just knocked on that guys door, I’d never set foot in a shoe repair shop before, and that was the day I asked him to buy his business,” Gavigan said.

From that fateful day in June 2015, Gavigan started a journey that led him to open Sole Man at 565 Elmwood Avenue, and has him winning awards for his cobbler craftsmanship. He won a Gold Award in the Shoe Service Institute of America’s 2019 Silver Cup Contest in July.

“I entered a contest in Germany and took silver and that put me on the international radar a little bit, and the most recent one was in Orlando Florida and I took a gold with a lot of these cobblers that have helped me through the years,” Gavigan.

He’s only been in the shoe business for four years.

Before his start in shoe repair, Gavigan published the Discover Buffalo Niagara Calendar. Born and raised in the Queen City, he poured his heart into the project.

“It was a 365 day beautifully done calendar but it was a project out of college not career and it lasted for 17 years. With a family and a lifestyle it’s hard to stop what you’re doing in the middle of it,” Gavigan said.

But with the support of his wife and kids he decided to follow his true calling.

“I had to put on the breaks and do a 180 but I was seasoned enough in my own skills and who I am to know that anything is possible. If you put your heart and mind into something you can really do anything you want,” Gavigan said.

He uses time honored equipment and techniques to restore shoes but Gavigan isn’t a one trick pony. He also repairs zippers, sells ties, bags, coats and gently used shoes.

“There’s a lot of moving parts in the shop, there’s a lot going on,” Gavigan said.

Despite him being fairly new in this career, his passion for the craft shows in the work. With only one other assistant, he painstakingly works on every detail, fine tuning each shoe until it comes back to life.

“I wanted to reintroduce quality, craftsmanship, and a dedication to a tradition that shouldn’t be put off. I wanted to resurrect that old trade because at the end of the day shoes are important, and what we’re wearing on our feet is important. That will never change,” Gavigan said.

Sole Man is open Monday and Tuesday from 11 a.m to 6 p.m., Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

For more information on how to make an appointment click here.

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