Tony Muñoz has a reputation around town. The resourceful shoe repairman has come to be known as Oak Park's modern day miracle worker when it comes to rescuing defunct footwear and impaired accessories.
You can expect to find the staid and reticent proprietor behind the counter of his eponymous shoe repair shop Tony’s Shoe Clinic in Oak Park (115 N. Oak Park Avenue) as certainly as you can expect the sun to rise each morning. As a matter of fact, Tony usually gets in to his shop around the same time the sun is rising, but he leaves long after sunset.
"There are many shoes to be fixed," he states prosaically, when asked about the extensive hours.
A man of few words, his contemplative eyes will study your wares with confidence, carefully plotting the resurrection of each worn item with skilled hands.
Located sub-street level, the no-frills shop is easy to miss. I’ve been coming here for a number of years, and yet still, I manage to walk by it. It’s minute in size, a basement storefront tucked below the boutiques and restaurants on the Avenue, directly under Bramble.
The capable cobbler handles all haggard handbags, battered belts, and dilapidated shoes with tender loving care, rendering them wearable, usable, and functional once again.
Tony has been refurbishing and repairing shoes, boots, belts, briefcases, luggage, and coats for over thirty-two years. “I get here at six each morning and I leave at nine at night. The work, the customers, I love it all.” he says with a twinkle in his eye.
A family-owned and family-run business, his good-natured children will patiently answer questions and tranquilly track down your items, even when you’ve lost your blue claim ticket.
Recently, when I showed up sans ticket in hand, I sheepishly mimed the proportions of half of the purses on this globe. The young lady behind the counter disappeared into the recesses of the shop and promptly reappeared with the said item in hand. Just like magic!
Broken zippers? Eroded heels? Damaged leather jacket? If you have a problem, Tony has an expert solution. Tony is the MacGyver of shoe cobblers.
One devoted customer recently recounted the sad tale of her mischievous mongrel munching her brand new leather satchel: “There was actually a hole in it!” she related, the memory of the incident twisting her face into a scowl. Then, with a genuine look of disbelief, “I didn’t think it could be salvaged, but Tony fixed it! You would never know there was a hole there!”
Long-time customer Deb Abrahamson of Oak Park has brought her belts, shoes, and purses here for over fifteen years. “He can fix anything,” she says sanguinely, a smile on her lips. “It’s the only place to go to,” she adds. And by this statement, I understand that she, like many others, believes it’s the only place you’d want to go to.
Tony’s Shoe Clinic is open Monday through Saturday, 7am-7pm. For info call 708.383.2781. Services include jacket lining mending or replacement, shoe restoration and resoling, and repairs of all other leather items such as handbags, jackets and belts. Shoe shines and waterproofing are also offered.