80 Year Old Institution Goes Digital

digitalIf you?re not a regular, it?s easy to walk right by Jim?s Shoe Repairing, a narrow storefront pinched between a 59th Street boutique and a Duane Reade. Inside, though, is an institution: Park Avenue customers have coming here to submit their cracked Chanel heels and scuffed Prada loafers to the care of the Rocco family’s cobbler craftsmen since 1932.

“Expensive shoes are hand-crafted. We try to keep that,” says Joe Rocco, founder Jim Rocco’s grandson, his New York accent proof of his heritage. “I started working at the store on Saturdays, when I was 13. My father started when he was 10. It?s a family tradition, working there. You get pulled in.”

Only we aren?t at Jim?s, but about as far away from Park Avenue as you can get within the five boroughs. Like a proud parent, Rocco, dressed in jeans and a black polo shirt, is leading me on a tour of the 5,200 square-foot Queens warehouse he helped to design and outfit; this week, it will become the operational headquarters of Cobbler Concierge, a startup aiming to give Jim?s an online storefront and access to a wider customer base.

“It?s pretty cool,” he says?and then pauses, with a smile, to correct himself. “It is cool.”

It?s also a rare example of a family-run brick-and-mortar business teaming up with digitally savvy entrepreneurs?in this case, cofounders Pettus Randall and Rebecca Haarlow, who met as Princeton undergraduates.

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