Originally known as Service Shoe repair and Boot Shop, Service Shoe has evolved with the times to meet the modern demands of today's clientele. Located at 55 Mechanic Street in the heart of the city centre, Service Shoe has occupied the same space it has from the beginning. In 2009, Service Shoe underwent an extensive renovation to its present premesis, which was built in 1990. Increased retail space, a bright new showroom, updated fittings and fixtures, modern seating and display pieces, new floors and ceilings, well-placed lighting, and updated computer and ordering system, reflect the changing times and a shift in the focus of one of the Greater Moncton Area’s most successful businesses. As present owner John Caracristi says, “When my father, Bruno, began in business 42 years ago, 80% of the business dealt with shoe repairs, with 20% in sales. Today, that dynamic has shifted 360 degrees, with 80% of our business in sales and 20% in repairs.” The need for increased sales inventory means that all three levels of the building are now being utilized, with storage for inventory in the basement and top floor where additional storage facilities share space with offices. The main floor is devoted to the retail and repair operations. Proudly presenting an inventory that includes some of the best brands in the shoe industry, Service Shoe remains a vital competitor in a market that has itself seen many changes in the way shoes are manufactured and marketed, as well as in the footwear requirements of today’s consumers.
The story of Service Shoe contains a mix of elements that come together to create a compelling tale. It is a successful small business story, a family story, and an immigrant experience all rolled into one. Small businesses are personal and individual, often reflecting the quiet genius and creativity of their owners who work tirelessly to fulfill a passion and to share that passion with others. As is often the case with immigrants to our communities, the small business idea becomes a survival strategy as much as it is a sharing of culture and a way to fit into a new world. Such was the case with the Caracristi family who own and operate Service Shoe.
The story began in a far off land with Bruno Caracristi, a shoemaker, and his wife, Carla. Together, they left Italy in the 1950’s to immigrate to Chile where they owned a shoe factory employing 60 people. After spending 10 years there, welcoming the birth of three sons, they returned briefly to Italy only to discover there were no jobs to be had in shoe manufacturing. Bruno worked in shoe repair out of necessity. He then set his sights on Canada, arriving with his family in Halifax in 1967 at the famous Pier 21, which is now an icon to Halifax history. The Caracristi family were among the last group of immigrants to come through Pier 21. With tickets to Tren- ton, Ontario, already in hand, it was the timely encouragement of an immigrant official to stay in the Maritimes that found Bruno and his family remaining in Halifax where Bruno found work with a Greek shoemaker. Wanting to go into business for himself, but not being fluent in English, Bruno nevertheless found an ad in the newspaper for a shoe repair shop for sale in Moncton. He could just make out the English words “shoe” and “sale” and he embarked on a train journey to Moncton where he found a few shoe repair businesses along Main Street up for sale. While Service Shoe Repair and Boot Shop was not for sale, Bruno approached the owner, Mr. Doucette, and offered to purchase the shop. He immediately became the proud owner of a business destined to stand the test of time. Bruno went on to become a local character of some fame, known for his operatic arias delivered while working. Known as “The Singing Shoemaker,” he even had a stint on television in the show “On the Road Again.” Beloved by scores of customers for whom he did repairs or custom work over the years, his lack of English never slowed him down in his communication skills. “My language is in my hands,” he’s always said.
A true family endeavour, Bruno was joined in business by his wife, Carla, and, as time went on, his son, John, who worked in the shop at nights and on weekends during his school years, eventu- ally becoming the owner on Bruno’s retirement, purchasing the company from his father in 1992, after which Bruno remained on staff in a mentorship capacity. Sadly, Bruno passed on in 2001, leaving a stellar reputation in the hearts and minds of generations of area residents to whom the memory of Bruno Caracristi has left an indelible mark. “We did everything togeth- er,” says John today. “Even the building of our present shop was a family undertaking. My brother, Paul, who is an architect, cre- ated the design and my other brother, Henry, did the drafting.” Today, the handsome, red brick building fits in nicely with the Blue Cross Centre across the street and the more recent addition of Marriott Hotel, all exhibiting matching red brick facades, making Service Shoe look as if it were recently erected and not built over 30 years ago. Allotted parking space along the street in front of the store and free metred and downtown parking on Saturdays caters to customers. “We are in a prime location to serve customers from all three of our communities as our geographical situation favours quick and easy access to Dieppe and Riverview as well as to points within Moncton,” says John Caracristi.
The story of Service Shoe has come full circle as John is joined by his wife, Marion, and son, Richard, in the business, and of course, John’s mom, Carla, still visits every day! The Caracristi family is joined by an excellent team of employees dedicated to serving each customer’s needs. The future bodes well indeed for Service Shoe where a quality product is still delivered with unparalleled service complete with personalized care and attention to every detail.