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Adding new life to a disposable world

December 03, 2006|by JULIE E. GREENE

Donna Hershberger's hands are dried and chapped from working with glue and chemicals year-round.

She likes long nails but occasionally chips off a fingernail working with an electric sander, and her workspace smells like leather, burning rubber, glue and an all-purpose thinner.

But she loves her job as one of a handful of people who still offer shoe repairs in the Tri-State area.

"After I get them in and they're really raggedly looking; when I finish them, they're like brand-new shoes," said Hershberger, who owns The Shoe Doctor in Hagerstown's West End.

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"I meet a lot of interesting people. Many are polite and appreciative. That makes me feel good," said Hershberger, 50, of Hagerstown.

Hershberger bought The Shoe Doctor from Nick Vindivich in October 2005. While working as Vindivich's production manager for his cleaning business, she would watch him at work.

One day Vindivich bought her a pair of old shoes and told her to rip them apart to see what she could do with them.

"So I sort of got hooked on it," says Hershberger, who's been repairing shoes for about eight years.

Hershberger can fix as many as 12 pairs a day, depending on what needs to be done. She replaces soles and heels, patches and stretches shoes, dyes dyeable shoes and does orthopedic work such as adding height to a shoe or just the heel. She also makes sewing repairs to purses, fixes coats and patches leather vests.

Her daughter, Dawn Neville, sews for her occasionally.

"I just do it, basically to try to keep the shop going," Hershberger said. "I make a little money."

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