Old cobbler shop in Longmont has soul of its own

LONGMONT — Word-of-mouth is the only kind of marketing Paul Magrum, owner of Little Boot & Shoe Repair, relies on.

“Marketing would be a waste of money,” he said. “We have all the business we can handle.”

The fact that he’s owned the company for more than 30 years in the same block on Main Street, probably has added to the kind of success that allows a business to rely on people talking. Since the shop has been around even longer, it’s a well-established part of downtown Longmont.

“I’m the third owner under this name. I know it goes back a ways, but no one has dates,” he said, adding that some customers have told him they recall wooden sidewalks in Little Boot’s history. It still has that distinct smell of leather, rubber and boot polish associated with a cobbler’s shop.

“I can’t even think of the other names it’s had, but it’s always been the same business.”

Even though today’s Little Boot serves a lot of locals, it’s more than a small-town business with a narrow reach.

Customers from all over the world rely on what Magrum and his two employees provide.

Those services include repairing purses from Paris, saddles from China and Western boots from Russia. How do people from so far away get the idea to use Little Boot?

“I don’t know,” Magrum said. “It blows me away.”

He explained that sometimes people from other countries send things to locals who bring them into the shop. Other than knowing that, Magrum doesn’t put time into figuring out the market.

“I just go to work, do my work and go home,” he said, describing his work days as nothing under nine hours.

Before Magrum bought Little Boot he built custom homes. “Leather work was my hobby at the time.

“The owner was a friend of my brother’s, and one day he asked if I wanted to buy it so I went in to got a feel for it and then bought it.

“I haven’t really missed the other work I did since doing this.”

Online reviews of Little Boot & Shoe Repair rave about its quality work, customer service and affordability.

“I try to work as reasonable as I can so people can afford what we do,” Magrum said. “And spending $50 to $70 to fix a pair of boots instead of paying another $250 for new ones is a big difference,” he added. “A lot of times people have stuff they like that’s comfortable, and they don’t want to throw it away.”

In the 30-year span as a shop owner working with leather, shoes, boots and saddles, Magrum said he’s still learning something new most days. “Now it’s about all the new materials shoes are made out of — like urethane, latex and PVC — and figuring out which glues and primers work with them.”

The largest company for which Little Boot does work is Niwot-based Sombrero Ranches, which provides saddle horses to places in Colorado, Wyoming and Montana. “We do a lot of boot and shoe repair and fix straps they use to hold horses.”

Magrum said most of his customers, however, are individuals.

“A few years back, we made a leather case for an arrow that came from where Gen. (George) Custer was killed,” he said. “We had the arrow so we could build it to fit. The man wanted just a little square box with a flap and part of a deer horn for a button.”

He thinks the owner is a local.

“Then we made a harness for an iguana — one of those big lizards,” Magrum said. “They brought the iguana in and we built it to fit. He just stood there, didn’t seem too interested.”

Business has been building gradually for the past three years, Magrum said, adding that he’s been getting busier and busier since 2001.

He thinks one of the reasons Little Boot stays popular is because people enjoy coming in. “The shop has an old type of attitude, and people say it’s just like stepping back in time.

“The building was built in 1896,” he said of shop at 317 Main St. “I don’t think anything’s changed in it since then.”

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