If you are from here, you have probably walked or driven past Reeves & Son Shoe Repair Shop at 536 King St. dozens of times.
The store with its name in large gold letters near Cannon Street has that feel of a bygone era. And surely a story to tell.
Locals have gotten their shoes repaired there for years; the store’s history goes back to before the Civil War.
But if you have never stopped in before, don’t go looking for Mr. Reeves. The owner is Doris Dixon, a petite woman who is “past my 70s” and knows quality shoes.
These days, the “only shoe repair shop in downtown Charleston” sees little foot traffic, because fewer people buy quality shoes, Dixon said.
Most shoes now are made of rubber and can’t be repaired.
“... I’ll be here”
Doris Dixon is not going away anytime soon. “As long as these hands work, I’ll be here.”
She began running the store in 1978 following the death of her husband, Elijah Dixon.
The store’s history goes back to W.D.B. Reeves, a Confederate veteran who started repairing shoes in a shop on Broad Street in 1860.
After the “War Between the States,” as his obituary states, Reeves started his own business; he and son Hoap C. Reeves, formed a partnership after World War I.
Elijah Dixon was working for the younger Reeves in the 1960s and acquired the business when the younger Reeves retired.
The store’s name was never changed, and it never will, Doris Dixon said.
She and her husband were grateful that the Reeves family turned over the business.
Doris Dixon moved to the current spot in 1989 after Hurricane Hugo destroyed the building at 442 King St; Mayor Joe Riley and the Chamber of Commerce helped her find the current location.
A step back in time
Step inside Reeves & Son and you take a step back in time. Just about every available space is filled, chock full of plaques, family pictures and electric fans to cool the place.
Lining the walls and cardboards are hundreds of yellowed newspaper clippings of local people, including Riley and blacksmith Philip Simmons.
Dixon said Simmons always walked with both hands behind his back, and would stop in from time to time.
He called her “the Flower Lady,” and you can see why. She has nearly 100 potted plants and flowers in the shop.
And, of course, there are shoes everywhere — men’s, women’s, flats, pumps, boots.
One pair of ladies’ purple leather slingbacks has been there since 2009. No one has come to claim them, and Dixon no longer has a telephone number. They are a size 9 medium, by the way.
Asked if she looks at shoes first when she meets someone, Dixon replies with a smile, “Of, course.”
And she can quickly tell you whether your shoes can be repaired. Suffice it to say, this columnist needs to buy better shoes.
Dixon, who has not bought a pair of shoes in about 10 years, said there used to be several shoe-repair shops downtown; they have faded as people retired and died out.
Fewer people come into the shop now. She has only about five customers a day sometimes. Asked how she is faring, Dixon said, “I have a landlord with a heart.”
The area used to be a big shopping destination with lots of furniture and clothing stores, such as J.L. Goldberg and Edwards’ Five and Dime. Now it is populated with bars and restaurants.
When customers stop in for the first time, they ask for the owner, thinking it’s a man, Dixon said.
After the initial surprise, they are fine.
Even so, many call her Mrs. Reeves. She smiles and answers to the name.
Dixon has known of only one other female shoe repairer, but she does not think of herself as a pioneer, just a woman doing “what she had to do.”
With lots of help, she had to learn to repair shoes when her husband died.
Now she mostly repairs women’s shoes and bags; Her son, Louis Nesbitt, repairs the men’s shoes.
Oh, while you are there, get your shoes shined — with a modern twist. You sit and relax while Dixon takes your shoes to a machine called a finisher and shines them.
You will only be set back about seven or eight bucks.
Reach Assistant Features Editor Shirley A. Greene at 937-5555, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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