High-flying executive discovers the shoe fits in new career
Not too many people can say they are happy at their job, so to call yourself the “Happy Cobbler” says a lot about how Sean Hunter is enjoying his second career. He laughs that he is probably the only cobbler with an MBA from Royal Roads University, but Hunter is genuinely in a good mood when talking about how he ended up fixing shoes in Airdrie.
In 2013, Hunter had grown tired of the extensive travel required for his job with a multinational company; spending three out of every four weeks flying across Canada while leaving his wife Carman Theissen, their son Jack, 5, and daughter Kate, 16, behind.
The chance to package out meant more quality time at home and he jumped into coaching and volunteering at school and with the Boys and Girls Club.
By 2015, Hunter was ready to consider a new venture and partnered with friend Tony Gize of Airdrie Canvas. Together they bought the shoe repair business of Marwan Shlah, who was retiring after 32 years.
Hunter trained with Shlah for the year and in 2016 they set up shop inside Airdrie Canvas. Hunter says Shlah has been an amazing mentor and teacher.
“There is no school for this and Marwan has so much experience, he works so fast, and it’s great because he still comes in and helps out,” says Hunter.
Hunter and Gize (his nickname is appropriately The Soleman) are now members of the Shoe Service Institute of America and attending a conference in California in July to gain peer and supplier contacts, as well as more training.
They’ve discovered shoe repair is a busy business in good economic times and bad. They also adjust footwear for prosthetics and people who have had hip surgery. There is a great sideline of repairs on baseball gloves and hockey equipment, too.
“We are so busy now sometimes I come in at night,” says Hunter. Sounds like the shoemaker could use a few elves.
“We want to provide high-quality service and our challenge is decreasing the turnaround time. So if anyone wants to learn the trade and become a happy cobbler like me, and be home with your kids every night, come and see me.”