In today’s world, many people looking for new shoes will drive to the nearest mall to buy something cheap that will last them maybe six months before they have to make the return visit to buy the next pair.
Gary Coakley is excited to see that mentality starting to change.
That excitement is probably warranted given Gary has been repairing shoes since he was 15 years old.
“People are realizing the world is falling apart. They are slowly realizing we have to do something about the waste we’re putting into the ground,” he said. “Shoe repair had definitely died off, but it’s coming back. You have to think about where you want to be. Do you want to buy $30 shoes twice a year or do you want to buy a $300 shoe and have it for five years and have it repaired once or twice?”
Gary opened Coakleys (57 York St., Unit 2) back in 2014, but his journey to small business ownership actually started a long way from the Forest City.
As a teenager back in England (he actually grew up in a small town just north of that other London), Gary was working in a store selling cushions until one day when the cobbler across the street put out a sign looking for trainees. After deciding he’d had enough of the cushion business, he walked in and started training to fix shoes.
His journey to the Forest City can be further traced to the Dominican Republic where he met his future wife Krisandra, who happened to be from Lucan.
After making their long-distance relationship work for five years, the couple decided something had to change and so Gary came to Canada and in 2009 they moved to London.
Gary eventually found work at a shoe repair store in Masonville Mall, where he worked for some five years.
One day Gary was talking with his friend and eventual business partner Taylor Ablitt (who is also the co-founder and CEO of Diply), who asked him why he wasn’t opening is own shop.
As he didn’t have any good reason for why he wasn’t, the two started looking into what it would take to get started.
After some 18-months of preparation, the York Street location opened up and business has been thriving ever since.
“If you don’t rip people off and provide a really good service, you shouldn’t fail,” he said. “It’s not rocket science; be nice to people, do good work, and people will keep coming back.”
Not surprisingly, Gary put in a lot of hours during the early days of the business, often working nine hours a day, six days a week.
Today, however, he has hired an employee, which has helped him get away a bit more.
And for Gary, that can mean hitting the golf course, but it often means jumping on his motorcycle.
Gary said he enjoys getting on his bike and heading down to Grand Bend. And as much as he enjoys the destination, the ride itself is something he embraces.
When he gets back to London though, he remains consistently thrilled with how everything has worked out.
“I love London. It’s beautiful, it’s green, the people are friendly. I’ve made friends here. The transition was hard, leaving my mum back home, that was tough,” he said. “But overall, I love it. Coming here was the best decision I could have made. I could have done this back there, but it has been way easier to do this here in London.”