The Quaker Shoe Repair has long been an iconic storefront in Haddonfield, New Jersey. But even more iconic has been the man behind the counter, James “Jim” Spinelli.
Spinelli is a small, quiet man who began an apprenticeship with a Camden cobbler when Herbert Hoover was president. And for the more than 80 years since, he has been repairing shoes in the area.
“For someone to get up every day, and come to work, and greet his customers with a smile on his face, and their shoes are ready on time,” said former Haddonfield Mayor Tish Colombi. “He never complained.”
Last week, family, friends, and customers turned out by the dozens for an event in honor of Spinelli, 94.
The scent of glue and shoe polish spilled out onto the sidewalk, as admirers waited for a chance to get inside and talk to Jim.
Visibly overwhelmed by all the attention, Spinelli declined an interview request.
But community members weren’t shy about heaping praise on him. The Rev. Joseph Messina, a retired priest with the Camden Archdiocese, said Spinelli built up a strong bond with the community.
“Well, you know, he’s the original renaissance man … there are very few of those around,” Messina said. “He really touches the heart. I mean they’re not customers, quote unquote, they’re all friends.”
In a short speech to the crowd gathered outside his shop, Spinelli said it was a pleasure to work in Haddonfield for so long.
The cobbler will continue working for the next few weeks, allowing customers ample time to pick up their shoes.