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Garden City’s ‘Shoe Doctor,’ Robert Cangemi, Retiring

Garden City Shoe Shop Closing Doors September 30

Garden City’s “shoe doctor” is officially closing up shop Sept. 30.

Robert Cangemi has been the owner and operator of the Garden City Shoe Shop, one of the village’s longest retail businesses, since 1969. He was 39 years old when he purchased the already existing shop on Seventh Street.

“I serviced a great town,” he told the Garden City Life. “It’s like a family here.”

His vast knowledge of the business is evident after one conversation. After all, he said he’s been working ever since he was a little boy. His father owned Cangemi Shoes, a company that made high-end women’s shoes in the 1930s, ’40s, ’50s and ’60s. “There’s a lot to the shoe business,” he said.

Cangemi, who joined the Garden City Chamber of Commerce when he took over the shop, said he’s always strived to be helpful. “I try to help my customers as best I can,” he said, always asking them whether or not their doctor measured their feet. He usually got the answer no.

“If he doesn’t measure your foot he’s got you as a perpetual customer,” he said, pointing to a sign in his shop that explains how a shoe should properly fit your foot and support the arch. “If the shoes are comfortable, people will continue to repair them. It would be to my advantage.”

Village historian John Ellis Kordes said Bob is part of a dying breed.

“It’s a credit to our community that we’ve had so many long enduring businesses in our village’s history; and Bob and the Garden City Shoe Shop should be proud that they’re one of them,” Kordes said. “Bob is part of a dying breed of mom and pop stores because of high rents and changing shopping habits and the malls. It’s hard for small businesses like the shoe shop to continue in our world.”

Cangemi’s daughter, Lisa, credits her dad’s success to honesty. “He knows the business inside out. With a personality of honesty, truthfulness and practicality, he applied all of his knowledge to make a successful business in Garden City,” she said. “His knowledge of genuine leather goods, shoe construction and a sense of practical design to ensure comfort, has enabled him to be successful at doing expert, lasting shoe repair and orthopedic work as well.”

Lisa said the waves and changes of the economy have lent a hand in making business difficult. “Although [my dad] is young at heart and could seem to go on forever this is the end of an era,” Lisa said.

The Garden City Chamber of Commerce will honor Cangemi, who just celebrated his 79th birthday in July, and his wife, Elizabeth, at its Sept. 30 luncheon.