Dan “Danny” Catalfumo, Sr, 88, learned to be a cobbler from his father starting when he was 7 years old in his family shoe repair shop, F&C Repair in Brooklyn. F&C is now in it’s 111th year operating out of the same building. The second to last child out of a family of nine kids (“I’m the only one left”), he spent three years in Korea before moving to South Florida in 1961. He met his wife while he was on furlough and married her 17 days after they first met. She passed away 11 years ago. Danny said that his priest told him that God must be keeping him around so that he can keep aggravating people.
Even though he was so far away from family, he and his brother (who took over the family business) stayed close, often helping each other out when something was needed in their respective shops. The machines he uses today are irreplaceable. A couple machines he pointed out were from 1941 and 1963. He repairs them himself and will not use what is being made today as he says they are mostly made out of plastic. Working with Danny in the shop are Annette Candiano and Tony Piraino, both of whom have been with Danny for years.
Danny uses leather from Italy and gets shoes mailed to him from places as far away as California and Arizona. He, jokingly told me, “I fix broken hearts.” It seemed to come true though when a guy in his thirties came in while I was there. He had two pair of shoes. About one pair, I overheard him tell Danny “These are my favorite shoes.” About the other pair he said that he had gotten married last year in Savannah and instead of renting shoes to go with his tux he had bought these shoes. (Danny replied “At least you got something out of it.”) Later a lady came in to drop off a Louis Vuitton bag from the 90’s. She and Danny recognized each other from the early days of the shop. She said that she had moved here in 1961 from Cuba. After they hugged they caught up on family, births and deaths and Danny showed her his wall of pictures of his family.
It seemed to me in the short time that I was there, that through people sharing bits of themselves with Danny that he was, in fact, fixing broken hearts. It just looks on the outside like he’s fixing shoes.