By Danny Schrafel
Seventy-nine-year-old Andrea Sorrentino has been a master of shoes since he was a boy in Naples, Italy.
Now, 72 years into his chosen craft, Sorrentino, owner of Andrea’s Shoe Repair at 13 Union Place in Huntington for the last 35 years, said he wouldn’t have it any other way.
The same goes for his loyal customers. Mention the dreaded “r” word in their presence – “retirement” – and they’ll quickly tell you to bite your tongue.
“I’ve never changed in my life,” Sorrentino said. “I always did shoe making."
Today, his son Andre Sorrentino, a Huntington Fire Department commissioner and co-owner of PAS Professional Auto Service in Huntington, said he’s still making new fans.
“I took 15 Girl Scouts to the Huntington firehouse. Then we went into my father’s, and they were amazed,” Andre said. “They were looking around, like – what is this place?”
At age 7, Andrea got into the family business, learning the craft from his father, a shoemaker. He stuck with the craft through his teenage and young adult years. It was then, at age 22, when he came to Huntington from Italy; his wife’s grandfather lived here, giving them a place to start a new life.
Before he branched out on his own, he worked in a shop for more than two decades on New York Avenue, located at the original Aboff’s building in Huntington. There, he managed a business for a woman whose husband had passed away, his son said.
By the early 1980s, Andrea had branched out on his own, opening the store on Union Place. People told him that it was a bad location – “it was a ghost town when he went down there,” Andre said. The choice paid off, though.
“It was the best move he ever made,” his son said.
Andrea specialized at first in orthopedic shoes and alterations to them, serving many of Huntington’s doctors. Now, he can repair practically any shoe, doing it the old-fashioned way – opening the soles with a knife, filing it down, gluing it and stitching it all together. When he got too busy to make shoes from scratch, he switched exclusively to repairs.
While Andrea assigns a ticket to each of the shoes, bags and other leather goods he takes in every day for repairs from his customers, he has a better sorting system yet – the faces of his regulars, who have deep affection for one of the last men still plying this craft.
“Our kids will never see anything like that again,” Andre said.