Among them is David Leviev, the 55-year-old Rego Park resident who owns Forest Hills Shoe Repair at 100-18 67th Avenue. The small business offers a wide range of services, including selling and repairing shoes and boots, repairing belts and bags, tailoring, repairing watches, manufacturing keys, and sharpening knives.
“My family is from Uzbekistan and Israel,” said Leviev, who immigrated from Samarkand, the second largest city in Uzbekistan, 17 years ago. “As a shoemaker, I have 40 years of experience. I worked on 108th Street for ten years, and then in the East Village for four years before opening in Forest Hills over three years ago.”
He is the third generation to preserve a family tradition.
“In Samarkand, my father worked for 55 years as a shoemaker and my grandfather worked for 57 years,” he said. “In the morning people drop off shoes, and at 5 p.m. they pick up.”
Some traditions have changed nevertheless. He has retained a few hand tools, such as his father’s hammer, but uses four machines in his back workspace, including a large Hardo shoe repair machine and a Singer sewing machine.
“For 30 years I am working with machines, but before I worked on everything by hand,” he said. “My family only worked by hand.”
His children understand what small businesses are about, even though they are not involved in repairing shoes.
“My son who is 34 has a barber shop, and my daughter who is 31 has a beauty salon,” he said. With a smile, he continued, and I give a discount to everyone.”
Local resident Yuliya Iskhakova comes from a family of shoe repairers, and admits that she is hard to please.
“I used to bring my shoes to Midtown, but after dealing with insane prices, I stumbled upon this gem last year,” she said. “He always asks when you need it, and accommodated a five-minute rush request when I walked in with a broken shoe. He even delivered my shoes when I couldn't pick them up.”
Iskhakova values the larger picture behind a small business.
“What’s great about this area are small businesses, where you walk in and people know who you are,” she said. “Interpersonal relationships you tend to lose in bigger cities.”
A recent transplant from Manhattan to Forest Hills, Laura Efrati considers Leviev’s work the best that she has seen.
“One pair of Coach shoes was complex,” she said. “The toe portion, which was different from the rest of the shoe, separated from the heel. I brought it to five places, and everyone said it couldn’t be repaired, but David was able to fix it.
“I would much prefer to support someone’s family or ability to buy a home,” she said of supporting local small businesses. “We are supporting our communities, rather than shareholders or CEOs of a major corporation.”
Leviev even has a fan base in other states. A few weeks ago, Leslie Wallack Melia and her husband visited New York from North Carolina.
“We have no shoemakers here,” she said from North Carolina. “Thanks to seeing this business in a Facebook group post, on the day we arrived my husband brought his expensive Pikolinos sandals to be re-threaded and resoled. For $20, this very talented man did the most amazing job. He made them look brand new again.”
Milana Malakov has been neighbors with Leviev since she was 12 years old.
“David is very true to his words,” she said. “Now he is repairing my husband’s work shoes.”
“David is very friendly and positive, and I've never heard him say that he can’t do it,” added Moshe Shamayev. “He will always find a way to go the extra mile to make a customer happy.”