Image of shoe being repaired and the tools used for repairing.
November 10, 2015

Still Shining After All These Years – Roy’s Shoe Repair Bar

Roy Thomas has been repairing shoes on the Concourse Level of Manulife Centre since 1980. “When I opened my shop, the area was so aristocratic,” he says softly in a Jamaican accent. “It’s better now. More life. More young people. More smiles.”

To look at Roy, you’d think he would have preferred the area back then. He wears a tie to work every day – he said it was part of the uniform, just like a clean pair of shoes. “The more effort you put into how you look, the more effort you’ll put into your life.” Wise words from a wise man.

The man behind the counter

You can tell by looking at Roy that he’s seen a lot in life. And you’d be right. He was born in Jamaica and moved to England when he was 11. He started polishing shoes as a way to make some extra money and found that he loved the craft. “It’s just you and shoe,” he says with a wink.

Image of Roy sitting in this shop

He joined the Royal Air Force as a groundsman, continued to fix shoes for the men on his bases and took up boxing. “My hands didn’t feel busy when I wasn’t working,” he says. “I needed something else.” He wound up going pro in England after his service and even tried out for the British Olympic team.

When he eventually hung up the gloves, he went back to what he loved: shoes. He moved to Canada, opened up shop and here he is.

Old school

Roy let us peek into his workshop and it was pretty much exactly what we were expecting. His machines look like they were cleaned that morning (a fact we later confirmed). He had some papers lying around, but everything looked like it had a place. And there’s a 1980’s TV set in the far corner, ironic considering he’s across the hall from Bay Bloor Radio. We asked him if he ever considered an upgrade. His response: “Why?”

But not forgotten

“Most customers are repeat customers,” he says proudly. And that includes people who’ve moved away. “Folks in California still send me their shoes. I do my job and I send them back.” We asked him why he thinks they stay so loyal, and again, with a big full-toothed smile, he says, “because I do my job.”

Roy’s Shoe Repair Bar is open Monday to Saturday from 10:00am – 6:00pm.