During the Great Depression, the United States had nearly 100,000 cobblers. Today, that number has plummeted to barely 7,000.
Among scuffed and broken shoes, Chris Bixby saw opportunity to modernize a traditional business. He started Shooli, a mobile shoe repair service for the Uber era.
“We brought modern convenience to what we call ‘the timeless craft of cobblery,’” says Bixby, who earned a Harvard MBA and worked in marketing at General Mills before making the leap to entrepreneur. The idea for a concierge-style shoe shine and repair business was born during brainstorming sessions with Bixby’s financial partner and investor, Hemisphere Cos., a Twin Cities–based investment firm.
Customers can schedule a shining, cleaning, or shoe repair through the website (shooli.com) or app. A Shooli representative picks up the shoes from the client’s home or office and returns them when the service is complete. It takes 48 hours for a shine, or a week for a more serious repair. Shoe shines are $10; boot reconditioning starts at $25.
“Everyone has a pair of shoes in their closet that they don’t want to throw away because they loved them, or because there is a story behind them,” Bixby says. His goal is to bring those shoes back to life.
However, he realizes that many people today have never been to, or even thought about going to, a cobbler or a shoeshine stand.
“That’s where I think the biggest opportunity lies, but also the biggest challenge,” says Bixby, whose small team wants to raise awareness that shoe repair is still an option, in addition to promoting Shooli itself. “We just really want to continue to tap into this movement of investing in fewer things and making them last, and of feeling really good about the things that you own.”
Shooli currently serves downtown Minneapolis, Northeast, Edina, and St. Louis Park. The company also has a new pick-up and drop-off location at Scout, a men’s clothing store on West Seventh Street in St. Paul. Once the service gains its footing here, Bixby hopes to expand beyond the Twin Cities and Minnesota.
This article is reprinted in partnership with Twin Cities Business.