Keeping a Timeless Trade Alive

November 2019

At the heart of every successful business is someone passionate about what they do. Martin Sugg of Timeless Shoe Repair keeps his valuable service alive and flourishing, driven by a fierce love for what he does.

Born in England, Martin’s father was a stone mason that emigrated to Canada in 1976, seeking better opportunities for his work and his family.

They moved to Thunder Bay in 1980 when Martin was 18 years of age.

“I needed a job and found employment with a shoe repair franchise in the mall, where I excelled in the work, becoming the manager of two shops, and eventually owning the shop at Intercity”, said Sugg.

After five years of cobbling, he accepted a position as a regional manager for a western Canada repair chain. After 10 years in the shoe repair industry, he decided he needed to make some real money. “I left the industry in search of my fortune. I worked several years on the sales desk at a busy building supply company, several more years as a roughneck, and eventually derrickhand, on a fast, hydraulic, drilling rig, and several years thereafter, for a vending company, which ultimately sparked my desire to be my own boss once again.
I moved back to Thunder Bay in August of 2013, and opened Timeless Shoe Repair. I had finally returned to the craft that I always enjoyed more than any other occupation I’d had since leaving the industry over a decade ago. I truly feel that I am now positioned right where I’m supposed to be, doing what I am supposed to be doing”, shared Sugg.

Passion was at the heart of his decision to move back to Thunder Bay and to his craft. “I’d missed it ever since I left, but didn’t truly realize how much, until I opened and started repairing shoes once again. Every day I see indications that I made the right decision. I look around my shop on any given day or time, and I often find myself wondering what would become of all the shoes, purses, and many other items...would they all just go into the landfill? In today’s world, this old trade is more important than ever. Shoe repair is one of the oldest forms of recycling, and it sure keeps us busy. My customers are the best in the world - they almost always come in smiling, and so often they tell me how grateful they are that I’m here to offer this service. One of my favourite things is when an old high school friend, or long forgotten acquaintance comes in, and
we reconnect. It can be quite surreal”, admits Sugg.

As the only shoe repair shop in town, he tries to never take his customers for granted. “I always try to offer the very best customer service and highest quality craftsmanship. I have had the most positive reception since returning to Thunder Bay and opening shop, and I’m truly grateful for the strength of support from all my customers. Without them I wouldn’t be living my dream”, explains Sugg.

A trophy case positioned at the centre of his showroom displays several trophies for his craft awarded for the standards of workmanship.

“Shortly after opening, I found a community of renowned shoemakers, from all over the world. Considering that shoe repair is not a recognized trade in Canada, and there are no shoe repair schools, you can imagine how valuable this resource is to my craft, and my business. We communicate on the internet and talk shop, so any time we need some help with a job, we can tap into hundreds of years of experience, for advice and suggestions. It’s this community and the many mentorships that it has generated that have propelled me into an international award winning category”, says Sugg. He is a seven time award winner, three awards given in North America, two awards given in Germany, and two awards given in the Netherlands. Martin’s favourite competitions are the European ones, because they allow him to demonstrate a level of creativity, whereas the North American contests focus on restoring shoes to exact original condition. “I believe that the competitions provide an opportunity to strive harder for excellence, and to raise the bar for our industry as a whole. For me, my awards are a symbol of achievement. They assure my customer that I know what I’m doing, and can be trusted with their treasures. After all, if your shoes fall into the hands of the wrong cobbler, they may come back more damaged than when you left them”.

Martin Sugg can be found Tuesday to Saturday at his store, located at 898 Alloy Place.

Bill Wrightsell is a marketing consultant and regular contributor to Bayview Magazine. Email him at

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