Christos Aggelopoulos – the man who knows all about your shoes
Christos is sweating. Beads of sweat run down his forehead, but he doesn’t care. Nor does he bother about the noise in the workshop, the coming and going, the loud conversations. He’s concentrating on this piece of leather that he wants to put inside this hiking shoe, to give the sole more stability. It needs a little bit more of effort, a little bit more of feeling to put it into the right place. But here we are! Christo takes a deep breath, holding the shoe a bit away from him and critically examines the result. Yes, this is how he had imagined it, this is how it goes. He leans back. This pair of shoes had been a challenge, broken soles and two holes. Normally, you would throw them away, but the owner loved these shoes. They had taken her a long way and throwing them away was not an option. So, Christos accepted the challenge, putting all his patience and knowledge into repairing these two shoes.
Where it comes to shoes, suitcases and bags – he likes complicated things. When people are entering his little workshop in the center of Agios Kirikos, hidden behind steps and the popular bar “Ambariza”, telling him: “Christo, everybody told me that it’s impossible to repair these shoes. But I love them, can you do something?”, Christos will most probably say: “Yes, we’ll see. Leave them here and I will find a solution.” Very rarely, he will answer: “Sorry, no chance, this really has to go to the garbage.” He doesn’t like this answer; it makes him unhappy. So, to avoid unhappiness, he’ll give it a try. It takes a lot of concentration, focusing, imagination, but above all: love for this work, knowledge, and experience! … And Christo has a lot of it.
Shoes have been around him since his early childhood. He grew up in Crete. Or better: Christos grew up in his uncle’s workshop, where his uncle was not only repairing shoes, but he was also making the famous Cretan boots, those that are made from one piece of leather, those that last a lifetime and are a symbol for the Cretan mentality: you never bend down! And perhaps, you can call this the baseline of Christo’s story.
It was there in that Cretan workshop that Christo got educated, where he not only learned from scratch how to make shoes and how to repair them, but he also got the philosophy of life: working with your hands teaches you lot about caring about things, looking into details and quality. Shoes can tell you the story about their owners, about their lives. Shoes tell you how you are walking through life, if you care about good stuff, maintenance. So, working with shoes not only has the aspect of “only repairing them”, but it also has an artistic, philosophical and psychological aspect to it.
And Christos learned these lessons well, building on them through his lifetime. Finally, he decided to open his own shoe-repair shop with a friend in Crete. It went on nicely and Christos loved what he was doing. But then he was called to do his military service in Athens, so he left the shop to his friend and went off.
He didn’t return to Crete because life put him on a different road. He became a truck driver, and he followed this path for over 28 years. He earned good money, but the life on the road is very lonely and it’s not always good for your soul. But the job brought him to Ikaria, and he got to know Maria, who became his life partner.
In 2005, Christos quit the trucks and turned back to his “first love”: working with his hands, working with shoes. Together with Maria, he opened a shoe repair shop, called “Mr. Minute” in Athens. And since then, the world of working with different materials, fixing, gluing, hammering, cutting, and polishing became the “cosmos” he happily lives in.
In 2020 Christo and Maria took the decision to open a new chapter in their life. They closed the shop in Athens and moved all of it to Ikaria, Maria’s homeland and where Christo feels good, too. They even kept the name “Mr. Minute”. So, if you walk now into their little workshop in Agios Kirikos, you can immediately feel these two are used to working together. Christo still mainly focuses on repairing shoes, bags and suitcases, whereas Maria has added the repairing of many other items to it, such as repairing sails, making curtains and cushions, refurbishing old chairs and canapes. And Christos gives her a helping hand with it.
They have their routine: in the morning they have their coffee with the people in the neighboring kafenia. Then it is working time, where both are concentrating. Sometimes it is very silent in the workshop: you only hear the hum of Maria’s sewing machine, the pounding of Christos while working on shoes. Or you are witnessing loud discussions, because Maria, Christos and their customers are discussing the best way of repairing an old chair.
No matter how, you are entering into a world where miracles can happen. You bring broken things, and you step out, with a broad smile on your face, because Christos and Maria have found a way, not only to repair it, but also to bring new life into it.
And this is what it is: repairing shoes – and other things – is by far not just a mechanical act. It is work that needs all of your senses, all of your knowledge. You must have an artistic imagination, to re-discover the beauty in so-called “broken things”. You must have trained fingers so that they can bring your ideas to life and make sure that every tiny little detail you’ve imagined is of the highest quality. And you need to be a good psychologist to understand the deepest wishes of your clients, even though they may not find the words to express them by themselves.
Christos has this knowledge, and he knows how to combine it with his extensive experience. He knows he’s achieved a good result not just when his customers leave his workshop with a broad smile on their face, but also when he knows he’s given new life to old things, having saved them from the trash can. In a world where shoes usually have a short lifetime and are intended for the garbage bin in a very short time, Christos is setting a different example. Changes can happen, even in a small shoe repair shop in Agios Kirikos, Ikaria.