“It’s the end of an era,” Danielle Miley says, standing outside her husband’s shoe repair business off Baggot Street in Dublin city centre. The shop, which has been open for 85 years, will close its doors this week.
Curran’s Shoe Repairs opened in 1937 by Michael Curran, later run by Hugh Miley in the 1960s, and finally, Hugh’s son John Miley.
“I was allowed in for the first time when I was 10 years old. That was 46 years ago last Tuesday, July 19th,” he says.
“I was working with three great men – Pat, Joe and Dominic. One of them a Fianna Fáiler, one a Fine Gaeler, one with Sinn Féin. The Sunday Tribune used to be across the road and every Monday morning at work, they’d all have their own opinions on the stories in the Sunday papers.
“Life here was brilliant. The customers were fantastic and I came to really love my trade. Then the other gentlemen died one by one. My dad was the last to go 13 years ago. I was left in there on my own,” Mr Miley says.
A cobbler in the same shop for close to 50 years, Curran’s is where Mr Miley met his wife, Danielle, 23 years ago.
“I worked around the corner in an estate agent and I came over to get my shoes fixed, and the rest is history. It’s like a little hub. Sometimes people don’t even come in to have their shoes fixed, it’s just for a chat,” she says.
Her husband has “never done anything different” but the business is “just not viable any more”.
“Things have changed, unfortunately,” she says.
The shop made it through the last recession “fairly okay” but when Covid hit, rising costs and a lack of footfall made it impossible to carry on.
“People’s travel arrangements changed, their attire changed. They were only in a half-day here, two days there. The costs of everything went through the roof. I just had to leave.”
It’s a dying trade, he says, with only a handful of dedicated cobblers left in the city.
The shop contains three generations of tools, machinery and ephemera, not to mention “a lifetime of memories”.
The original 1930s machinery will find a safe home in the Moynalty Steam Threshing Museum in Co Meath where they will be restored by Mr Miley and the Men’s Shed connected to the museum.
Following an appeal on RTÉ’s Liveline on Tuesday for help transporting the equipment, Cronin Movers got in contact offering to help. Soon, people started turning up at the shop offering their assistance in dismantling and packing up as well.
Curran’s will close at 4pm this Wednesday, July 27th for the last time.
Mr Miley and his wife have “no plan as yet” but will take some “time off and see where life goes from there”.