Lovells sews communities together for 43 years of service


Rob Le Cates

Wes Davis demonstrates one of the many machines in the Lovells Shoe Repair workshop during a tour Thursday morning.

Rob Le Cates, Assistant Photo Editor

Lovells Shoe Repair is a small shoe repair store near Charleston Square that has been mending broken soles, sewing bags and more for the past 43 years since 1979. 

When entrepreneur Sara Lovell started Lovells Shoe Repair, it was created on the foot of the enjoyment of attaching heels to shoes. 

“It’s been interesting,” Lovell said. “It’s one of those jobs you don’t mind going into work, even when bad things happen.” 

Before Lovell moved to their current location at 610 Seventh Street, she set up shop at 709 Monroe Ave. for three years. 

Lovell and her family lived above the store for 23 years, luckily making it easy to go to work. 

Lovell said the apartment used to be a grain elevator and had a hayloft there. She also recalled being woken up by the courthouse many times. 

Lovell’s son Wes Davis, 53, started working full-time at the business in September 2020. 

Before working at Lovells, Davis had worked with a heating and air company for around 22 years, ultimately leaving because of his back and knees. 

Although Davis had been working a different job, he still had assisted with his mother’s business, helping her whenever she needed it. 

Davis started helping his mom as early as nine to 10 years old; he would polish shoes to earn some extra pocket money. 

Over 40 years later, he has continued to heel Charleston and the surrounding areas’ shoes and more. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic started in March of 2020, Lovells was able to stay open as an essential business because of its ability to repair emergency service garments. 

During the pandemic, they repaired EMS, fire and police department equipment, heavy-duty boots and other necessary items. 

Davis said working through the pandemic was stressful but also kept him hopeful for the future. 

“[It was] stressful, I guess a little bit because we didn’t have the daily flow coming in every day,” Davis said. “So just stressing about ‘how is this gonna keep going and how is the future.’” 

He noted that the townspeople always came in and kept them going, making them feel like family. 

“[Lovells] just reminds me of family,” Davis said. “You got family who come in, our family, and then customers who come back and they also feel like family.” 

“I told someone one day; it can be a $1,000 purse or a $5 purse, if it’s torn up its the same, equal value to me,” Davis said. “I treat ’em all the same. Everything’s got a value to it. Lot of people come in here and they can’t afford to go get new shoes; I’m happy to have that repaired and keep them going. 

When Lovell was around 70, she stepped away from the business, leaving it in the hands of her son, but still comes back to help when she misses the work. 

Davis said he is proud of his mom’s dedication to being both a teacher to him and a role model for the trade; he said his mom had incited a passion in his work. 

“I love my job,” Davis said. “Every day is a new adventure. It’s a nice challenge and it’s like tinkering in your garage.” 

Davis, now a grandfather, hopes to keep the business running in the family, wanting to catch one of the seven grandchildren and get them working in the shop, saying he knows they will love it. 

Thursday morning Lovells along with Eastern’s Academy of Lifelong Learning, hosted a behind-the-scenes tour of what goes on at the shop. 

Community members from Charleston and surrounding areas came to learn about what it’s like to work in a shoe repair store. 

David demonstrated and explained the machinery and other knacks of the profession to the group. 

To keep machines operating, routine maintenance is completed to ensure the shop has the means to continue service. 

Some machines are around 40 years old or older, some being metal needing to be oiled and greased to ensure they are of quality. 

Charleston community members Lisa Dallas and Lynette Drake said they both have brought items to the workshop and love to continue supporting the store. 

“We thought it would be fun to see the back end of the store and show support,” Drake said. 

During the tour, the mother and son duo showed the tour group machinery and explained the products they work on. 

Offering an array of services like shoe and boot repairs, patch and patch sewing and bag sewing. 

Mattoon community member, Jack Little said he has been to Lovells several times and knows they do quality work. 

“They have a solid customer base and do high-quality work,” Little said. “I love what Lovells is doing.” 

Lerna community member, Sue Meyer, came to the event because she knew more was done than what she thought and was curious as to what. 

“I’m always one that thinks it’s valuable to keep things like this going,” Meyer said. 

Meyer said she heard about the tour and wanted to grasp the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about the business. 

Because of the tour, Meyer discovered Lovells and is eager to bring some of her stuff in to be fixed. 

“I don’t have the strength to do some of that stuff, and my sewing machine doesn’t [either], but theirs does,” Meyer said. 

Meyer said there is so much more to this craft than she ever thought possible. 

“They’re not limited like a person would think,” Meyer said. “When I see antique mail bags, they are being restored, baseball gloves, softball gloves being restored, there is just more than what I had ever thought. They are a treasure.” 

Rob Le Cates can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]