Jim Daubenspeck, above, closed his shoe repair shop in Laconia for a few weeks to spend time teaching a woman in St. Lucia how to use a special sewing machine for her business there. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun) Right, Elton, one of the workers at Shoe Rehab in Saint Lucia, displays a pair of repaired shoes. (Courtesy photo)
Laconia’s ‘Daub’ sent an old sewing machine to St. Lucia, sparking a friendship and business venture
By ADAM DRAPCHO, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Jim Daubenspeck purchased LaBelle's Shoe Repair in Laconia, which is now Daub's Cobbler Shop, because he wanted to help people and be part of a community. The move wove him into the fabric of downtown Laconia and also into the worldwide cobbler community. That was how he found himself in the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia this winter, leading several days of workshops for a woman who is bringing professional shoe repair to a place where the service is much needed.
"It all started with an old, black Singer," Daubenspeck said, chuckling. About a year ago, Daubenspeck noticed a request for a used patching machine on a Facebook group, Shoe Repair International. Daubenspeck happened to have a 1989 Singer that he wasn't using, so he contacted Mandisa Morrison, the person behind the post, and negotiated a fair deal to ship it to her shop in Saint Lucia, an eastern Caribbean island nation.
Daubenspeck, a U.S. Navy veteran, wanted to be sure that Morrison was satisfied with the machine, so he remained in contact in case she should have any trouble with it.
"We struck upon an immediate friendship," he said, and over the months Morrison asked him for advice about all things related to shoe repair. Daubenspeck came to be impressed by Morrison, who saw a need for professional cobbler services in a place where many people commute on foot and where the only other place to get a shoe repaired was by someone on a street corner who would mend a sole with a piece of old tire. Morrison brought the idea into reality four years ago. She has since opened a second Shoe Rehab location and has further plans for expansion.
So, when she secured an economic development grant to bring an expert in cobbling to Saint Lucia for a workshop, Daubenspeck was happy to accept the invitation.
"I got to be that guy," he said.
It wasn't a Caribbean vacation, though. Daubenspeck spent at least 10 hours of each day training Mandisa's staff, then worked with Mandisa after hours to refine her business plan and develop personnel policies. He received a modest stipend for his time, but he gained more from the experience than dollars.
"I was so refreshed, so motivated and inspired by these young people – just the enthusiasm they brought to every day life," he said. "It's now time to be looking for this next generation. How do we do that? Opportunities like this arise, it got my blood flowing again."
“Dutch,” working at the Singer patching machine that started the entire journey for Jim Daubenspeck. (Courtesy photo)
Daubenspeck stands with Mandisa Morrison in front of Shoe Rehab in the Gablewoods Mall in St. Lucia. (Courtesy photo)
The machine that started the journey. (Courtesy photo)
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