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“Anthony’s Shoe Service will be closing November 10,” stated a notice posted on Anthony Paravalos’s counter.
Addressing all of his “valued customers” Mr Antonios “Anthony” Paravalos’s notice also stated, “If you have any items that need to be picked up, please do so before the 10 of November. I will still be doing repair work until the 10 of November.”
The note continues, “I want to thank all of my customers and Newtown for your patronage through the years. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Anthony.”
Mr Paravalos has been in business in Newtown since 1992 at 43 South Main Street, and was featured in The Newtown Bee that October, and again several years later in the Snapshot feature in The Bee, which highlights local people.
According to past Newtown Bee articles, as a young man Mr Paravalos studied at the Moderno School of Design in Athens. He made shoes for the Petrides company there, and from 1960 to 1971 he had his own shop on the island of Andros. He moved to Danbury in 1971.
Mr Paravalos learned English by taking night classes at Danbury High School, and for 12 years worked in manufacturing, and was later a manager at the Windmill Diner. As his children grew older, he decided to return to the shoe business. He bought a retiring shoe repairman’s equipment and first had his shop in Danbury, but soon moved to Newtown.
“I grew up in this job. I am the original shoemaker,” he had said to The Bee in 1992.
Pulling out a drawer, he found the Snapshot column from The Newtown Bee in 1996. Pointing to his answers to a few questions there, the article asked about his favorite place: “Every place in town is my favorite. I feel like I am free. I love Newtown. Anyplace I go, I like it.”
His philosophy? “I like to see people, not grouchy, but happy. Life is short. It’s good to be laughing.”
Many Years, Many People
Looking at the shoemaking and repair tools and machinery squeezed into a small leather- and polish-scented space, Mr Paravalos said, “I’ve had a lot of years in this place.”
Boots in hand, Brandi Shelton approached the counter. Placing her “favorite” tall leather boots on the counter, she pointed to worn areas. “I just love these boots,” she said. “I want them to last forever.”
In the past, Ms Shelton had a purse stolen, and later found in a swamp. “He fixed it, like new,” she said.
Debby Pollack has been bringing items to Mr Paravalos for repair for more than 20 years.
“He’s seen my kids grow up, he’s a lovely person, and a real Newtown icon. I actually started crying when he told me he’s retiring in November,” she said.
“He does shoes heels, soles,” and also repairs horse blankets and bridles. “I don’t know who else I’m going to get to do that,” she said. Her daughters have been “in and out of that store for 21 years basically, and my younger daughter had to see him one last time when she learned he was retiring.” She has a pair of shoes there, “and when I pick them up it will probably be the last time I see him.”
Ms Pollack said, “He admonishes me when shoes are so worn through.” She brought in one pair of boots “many, many times, and he finally would tell me — ‘it’s time to put them to rest.’
“He is a pillar of the community. He has fixed purses for me more than once,” she said.
Dr Diane Wenick has used his services for years, as well. “I love that guy,” she said.
She also has been going to Mr Paravalos for more than 20 years.
“He is such a sweetheart and he always has something upbeat to say — and the old equipment, it’s enthralling, and he talks about Greece.” When she visits, “He shows me that he fixes shoes that are very expensive; and he does a great job.”
Dr Wenick said, “He does a nice job and does it the old-fashioned way. Whenever you go in you have to chat a little bit and look at pictures of him … he will be missed.”
The Mind And Hands
Lifting a tawny piece of leather wrapped around a wooden shoe horn, Mr Paravalos indicated a pair of men’s shoes that he was making. Behind him were shelves filled with shoes by Prada, Manolo Blahnik, Ferragamo, and Louboutin — expensive women’s heels, handbags, men’s shoes, and more.
“People come from Greenwich, Westport, Darien,” all hoping he can repair their shoes, he said.
Both repairing and handcrafting his own shoe designs, he said, “I’m originally a shoemaker. I started as a young boy.” As a child in Greece, Mr Paravalos was playing one summer when his father had said, “You know, school is over. Start to work.” He had told his father, “I don’t want money, I want to learn something.” He had gone to a shoemaker who was designing, cutting, stretching materials to make shoes.
“I loved to see the design. And so, that is my life.” Every summer he would go and watch the shoemaker, he said. “I was 10 years old when I started to be a shoemaker.”
Lifting an old, framed black and white photograph, he smiled at the image of several men and one younger boy —Mr Paravalos — in a shoemaking shop. “Everything was done by hand; no machines 60 years ago.”
He designs his shoes on paper, creates cutouts that soon translate to a shaped piece of leather wrapped around the shoe supports, and ready for soles, heels, and stitching. He said, “Boots, shoes, any kind, make me happy.” He has made a variety of footwear, from sandals to butcher’s shoes.
Standing on a shelf was a book filled with vibrant illustrations of shoes, a new pair on each page. They were his designs. Slowly turning the pages and looking through the images, he slapped the book closed and set it down.
He will miss designing and making shoes, he said.
Tapping his head, he said, “A maker could be 100 years old and still in the mind is thought to create, all the time.”
He said, “Tailors and shoemakers are the best — you use mind and hands to create.” His mind never stops imagining how to do it. “Computers destroy the mind for designers,” he said. “Years back, shoes were done with the mind and hands,” Mr Paravalos repeated.
Stepping back behind the counter, glancing at the many shoes awaiting pick up, he said, people have asked him why he is retiring. “It’s time, it’s time,” he answered.
Reaching for more photos, he has a collection of before and after images of shoes or boots torn up by family pets. Heels were eaten, or the back of a boot was torn out. “But, I gave them back like new.”
Along one wall where pictures and past news articles hung was another shelf holding polishes, laces, spot remover, water proofing creams, and more. “A lot of people, a lot of memories,” he said.
When Mr Paravalos came to the United States, he lived in Danbury, where he eventually bought the supplies from a retiring cobbler. Similarly, Zelda Grimm of Vermont is buying Mr Paravalos’s equipment and taking it back to Vermont.
What will he do during retirement?
“Oh, I have a lot of hobbies. I’ll do something,” he said. Saying he will have a lot to do, he will not stay home if the day is beautiful. However, rainy days might keep him home, he guessed.
He loves his work and loves the people. “I wish the best to everybody.”
Mr Paravalos’s daughter, Helen Paravalos-Valazquez said, “He’s has been working so hard all his life and he has had his shoe repair for over 25 years and has always taken pride in his work.” She said,
“He always does an awesome job on all of his repairs and everything that leaves his store.
“He loves Newtown and the people there that have supported him all these years,” Ms Paravalos-Valazquez continued. “I am 100 percent sure that he will miss his shop and his friends, but it’s time he takes a rest and retires.”
He will be closing just four days before his birthday, she said, “So I guess it’s a great gift to himself.”