Shoe Repairing was a very common trade for the immigrants coming to America from Italy / Sicily in the early 1900's. The trade since then has been handed down to younger generations. Louis is 4th generation Italian and below is just a glimps of how Louis' uncle Morris Princiotta handed it to him.
Morris Princiotta, went to work for Roy Russo at age 11 in 1943 for 4 years. He then went to work for 2 years for Buster Gagliano at age 15. At 17 he joined the Navy where he ran the shoe shop on the ship. He later came back and started working for Buster Gagliano again at age 21.
At 23 Morris bought City Hall Shoe Rebuilders from Felix King in 1954. It was located on 4th ave North between 19th and 20th Street across from Forbes Piano. Pictured here is a leather salesman leaning up against the company car outside his shoe shop.
He later moved the shop in 1963 to 420 19th Street North. He stayed there until 1973 and then bought Valley Grocery on 119 in Shelby county. He brought his shoe equipment with him and created a small shoe shop on the side of his grocery store.
Morris later sold Valley Grocery in 1982, took a break for a year, and opened up Hoover Shoe Repair in January of 1983 where he hired his nephew Louis Ardovino who wanted to learn the business. To the right of the picture is Louis' aunt and Morris' wife Rosalie Ardovino Princiotta.
It's 1984 and this is Louis learning how to stitch a sole from Johnny Lawson who was Morris' employee. Johnny was a lot of fun and started learning the trade and working for Morris when he was 16. Johnny could really get the work out and did a fantastic job.
In August of 1986 after learning the trade from Morris Princiotta, Louis Ardovino opened up his first business on Oxmoor road in the 186 building on the Westside of Homewood at 22 years of age.
The shop was across the street from Sarris Restaurant and the Waffle House. Down the street was the Florida Grill, the Homewood Driving Range, and the Oxmoor Ice Lodge.
Soon after opening Oxmoor Shoe Repair Louis' brother Charles started working with him and learning the trade while going to college.
8 years later in 1994 Louis opened a second location, splitting a building with Village Cleaners on the corner of Oporto and Montclair. It was named Village Shoe Repair and was in the old Bumper to Bumper auto parts building.
With both the shoe shop and the cleaners having the same name and colors in their signs, people did not notice the shoe repair shop. One day a man named Sammy Salerno walked in and asked Louis how his business was. Louis replied "it's slow". Sammy suggested turning the sign upside down. Two weeks later Louis had doubled a struggling business and decided to change the name to Upsidedown Shoe Repair.
Trying to do the repairs for two locations became old quickly though. In 1996 Louis decided to close both the Oxmoor Road and the Oporto / Montclair location and have one shop again, but this time on the East side of Homewood. This is where the shop resides today, keeping the name Upsidedown.
This single shop has been in existence for 21 years now. Quite a few of the regular customers from both the Oxmoor and Oporto locations still trade with Louis today, along with many new great customers.
Enjoying dessert with my Uncle Mo as he fills me in on the details of the past. Now retired, Morris remembers the days he spent seeing his customers and making repairs. Occasionally Morris has dreams of being in his shop working hard to keep the shoes moving.
Working for all uncles, moving from left to right and me starting out at * age 11- Carl Tombrello, hand painting signs on 18 wheelers and store front windows. * age 14 - Vic DeJohn, Vicco Precision Metals, running hydraulic presses bending metal to make Kodac display racks, back lit car tags, etc. * age 17 - Jude Tombrello - Southeastern Jack, repairing Air Compressors, Battery Chargers, Floor Lifts, Tire Changers and Tire Balancers * age 19 - Johnny Tombrello - Alabama Jack, repairing Cab Jacks, Hydraulic cylinders and rebuilt a few car engines * age 20 - Morris Princiotta - Hoover Shoe Repair, resoling shoes and boots, ..... and haven't stopped yet.
What a blessing it is to have such a big Italian Family. Along with my dad Charles Ardovino, I have a total of 11 uncles. All but one, owned their own business. I worked with all of them at one time or another and each one taught me what they knew.