Goes Together like Shoes and Keys!?
August 7, 2006 2:09 PM   Subscribe

What is the connection between shoe repair and key cutting?

It seems like every store that cuts keys also repairs shoes . I assume this is some historical artifact , but I can't for the life of me figure out why this would be .
posted by grex to Grab Bag (37 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It seems like every store that cuts keys also repairs shoes

Interesting. I wasn't aware these guys repaired shoes. Huh. Learn something new every day.
posted by dersins at 2:27 PM on August 7, 2006

Never seen this before.

A better question would be about the connection between tanning salons and video rentals.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 2:30 PM on August 7, 2006

I've never seen this either - but I'm wondering if it might be a regional thing... what part of the world are you from?
posted by OverlappingElvis at 2:31 PM on August 7, 2006

That is typical of how it is done in Australia. Never saw it connected that way in the US.

Have no idea why they do it in AUS, but may be that one person started to supplement the slowing cobbler business and they all took part.
posted by qwip at 2:39 PM on August 7, 2006

Typical in UK.
posted by k8t at 2:40 PM on August 7, 2006

About 100 stores in NYC have shoe repair / keys made / watch repair in addition to selling shoes, watches, umbrellas, etc. I figured it was an urban phenomenon since there isn't a lot of room for a huge hardware store in every neighborhood.
posted by mattbucher at 2:42 PM on August 7, 2006

It's alive and well in Ohio. Our Meijer has a big key machine at the shoe repair department.

Maybe, years ago, a marketing guy decided to combine two of the most infrequent, yet neccessary activities known to man.
posted by Jesco at 2:43 PM on August 7, 2006

grex - I've never seen this. So one more vote for this being regional. In the US most people would automatically go to a hardware store to get keys made, and shoe repair is pretty hard to find.
posted by Wizzlet at 2:43 PM on August 7, 2006

These businesses are common in the UK - Mister Minit is a well known one.
posted by the cuban at 2:46 PM on August 7, 2006

That's definitely the case in Australia. Shoe repair, key cutting, watch battery/band replacement, and engraving. These guys are the most prominent franchise. I have no idea why... Maybe because these areas use similar tools/skills?
posted by web-goddess at 2:46 PM on August 7, 2006

I would say the connection is the other way around: places that repair shoes also cut keys. At least in the Chicago Loop, where most of my key-copying activities take place, it's pretty much a given that a shoe-shine/repair place will copy keys.

There are a million places that copy keys without having anything to do with shoes, though, from the above-mentioned Ace hardware to my favorite, the combination dollar store/pet shop that, I just discovered, has a key-cutter sitting in one of the aisles, behind the kitchen towels and candles and next to the bird food (and birds).

I imagine it's not a huge investment for the key-cutter, and it would bring in a steady couple-ten dollars a day. Shoe places can't do THAT much business, and it's probably why hardware stores (and the odd dollar store) have them, too.
posted by ruby.aftermath at 2:46 PM on August 7, 2006

In the US (at least in Metro Atlanta GA) the small shoe repair kiosks often used to do key copying. Unfortunately many of them are out of business and any hardware store copies keys.
posted by Megafly at 2:54 PM on August 7, 2006

like ruby.aftermath, in my experience it's been that places that repair shoes also copy keys, and not necessarily the other way 'round. I live in the US, in Maryland, for what it's worth.
posted by needs more cowbell at 2:56 PM on August 7, 2006

It sounds like a store-within-a-store deal. A large store that allows one little business to operate within its walls is likely to allow another.
posted by pracowity at 2:57 PM on August 7, 2006

This is common in NYC. But then again, so are shoe repair shops, to an extreme degree. I guess it's all the walking?
posted by unknowncommand at 3:03 PM on August 7, 2006

These people seem to distribute only shoe repair and key-cutting equipment. I'm guessing it's some kind of similar parts issue.
posted by unknowncommand at 3:05 PM on August 7, 2006

It's definitely an urban thing (in addition to a Meijer thing) because it's really common in Philly too. Hole in the wall shops that repair shoes, cut keys, sell lottery tickets and whatever other small-scale thing they can fit in there.
posted by monochromaticgirl at 3:09 PM on August 7, 2006

i've seen this in california as well, and was surprised by the number of "what you talkin' bout, willis?" answers here.

no idea what the connection is but i've always thought it was very common for stores that do one to do the other.
posted by joeblough at 3:25 PM on August 7, 2006

As noted, every (or almost) shoe repair place in the UK will also cut keys. It's not 2 businesses sharing the shop, here anyway, it's the same guy who'll do both.

I always assumed at some time in the past, at least, they used the big shoe shining/heel grinding machine to also cut the keys. Looks like it could do the job with the right attachment.

Also they will nearly always sell watch straps (though not watches), when the only connection is leather shoes/leather watch straps.
posted by selton at 3:42 PM on August 7, 2006

Common in Philly, too, though sometimes it's clearly two businesses sharing space.
posted by desuetude at 3:44 PM on August 7, 2006

Same here in New Zealand
posted by slightlybewildered at 4:38 PM on August 7, 2006

What we're looking at here are a bunch of occupations that offer the following: a predictable stream of income; no licensing or professional training requirements; no perishable inventory; very limited space requirements; tool/supply requirements that are inexpensive but not economically viable for people to maintain in their home; skills fungible internationally (if you know how to repair shoes in Karachi, you know how to repair shoes in New York).

That last point makes these kinds of businesses attractive for recent immigrants out to start their own business. But even for longtime residents, by diversifying their services, they expand their customer base at very little cost to themselves.

Key cutting, shoe repair, watch repair, umbrellas for sale/repair, knife sharpening, cigars for sale, all satisfy these criteria, so it makes sense you would see them operating out of the same storefront.
posted by Brian James at 4:59 PM on August 7, 2006

More than one stand-up has got a whole routine out of this question. No, seriously.
posted by reklaw at 5:14 PM on August 7, 2006

From here (scroll down to Tricks Of The Trade):
No one can afford to live off shoe repairs alone any more. We have to do key cutting, engraving, watch repairs and even sell some giftware.
posted by tellurian at 5:49 PM on August 7, 2006

Very common in strip malls and random shopping malls in Canada.
posted by blue_beetle at 6:09 PM on August 7, 2006

and they usually sell Zippo lights, novelty license plates, and various knick-knacks
posted by blue_beetle at 6:10 PM on August 7, 2006

I noticed this too! I was going to ask this here and forgot about it!
posted by easternblot at 6:10 PM on August 7, 2006

Oh, and while I was previously thinking about it, I made up a vague explanation involving metal. Shoes have small metal parts (grommets for the laces, sometimes a metal toe, nails between sole/shoe) that were maybe once cut/bent using the same kind of equipment that would make keys. This is just my imgination at work, though.
posted by easternblot at 6:14 PM on August 7, 2006

it's typical in singapore too.
posted by netsirk at 6:24 PM on August 7, 2006

You guys are forgetting that you can open almost any lock with your shoe. And there's a reason for that.
posted by kookoobirdz at 6:54 PM on August 7, 2006

It's an evolutionary thing, as tellurian mentioned. They started doing one, and slowly added on others that were easy to do with their current setup.

Tanning salons/video rental is similar, and that's because they're relatively cheap franchise businesses that don't require much specialized knowledge and can be run out of the same space.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 8:35 PM on August 7, 2006

Aren't many fencing operations fronted from small repair shops? (This seems to be common in novels).

Where better to get some hot keys cut than from your fence who also fixes your shoes that were damaged when you had to hotfoot it away from your last job.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 8:42 PM on August 7, 2006

You might be interested in the answers given for this similar thread on sewing machines and vacuum cleaners.
posted by MrZero at 8:46 PM on August 7, 2006

It's a security issue. If your house gets robbed, and there's no sign of forced entry, all you need to do is go and tell the police that the cobbler is to blame.

The cobbler is unable to slip away quickly & lose himself in the crowds because anybody walking about with unwashed face & hands covered in shoe polish is immediately a standout and instantly under suspicion of running away from something.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:48 PM on August 7, 2006

This combination is common in Texas and also in Austria.
posted by syzygy at 3:23 AM on August 8, 2006

Response by poster: Sorry, I was away from my computer all night, so i couldn't really tend to my question.

For the regional thing, I currently live in Montreal, I have also seen this where I grew up , in Toronto.

I think ruby.aftermath and needs more cowbell are right. It is shoe repair shops that cut keys, and not key cutters repairing shoes.

Maybe I will go to one of these places (I need some keys cut anyways) and ask what the deal is. I will report back with my findings.
posted by grex at 6:22 AM on August 8, 2006

When the hardware store down the street went out of business, the dollar store owners went in and bought the key cutter and the keys. Another data point that key cutting might be secondary business.
posted by philfromhavelock at 6:12 PM on August 8, 2006

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