Larry Schupbach, who began repairing shoes as an apprentice cobbler at age 14, won the Grand Silver Cup for craftsmanship in the Shoe Service Institute of America's 2003 national competition.
Since 1995, Larry Schupbach has toiled alone, in relative obscurity, in his 750-square-foot shoe shop in Tucker, fixing soles, shining shoes, stitching handbags. He has a steady clientele, and they trust that his work will be the best.
Now, so do about 8,000 of his shoe repair colleagues around the country. Schupbach, owner of Village Shoe Service, recently won the Grand Silver Cup in the Shoe Service Institute of America's 2003 national competition.
The Silver Cup is the group's highest award in the most difficult category -- craftsmanship. Each competitor had to submit three pairs of well-worn shoes and repair one shoe from each pair to factory-new condition. Judges then compared the repaired shoe to the unrepaired one.
Schupbach first entered the competition seven years ago. Each year he did better and scored higher. He was determined to win.
"I wanted to see how I'd measure up," he said. "I just wanted that Grand Silver Cup, so I kept at it until I got better year after year. This time I did it."
The cup rewards Schupbach's hard work and highlights his 20-year shoe repair career. Schupbach began when he was 14, as an apprentice to his brother-in-law and the longtime cobbler his relative worked for at Lilburn Shoe Repair. The store owner had three shops then, but sold two -- Village Shoe Service and Snellville Shoe Repair -- in 1991 to Schupbach's brother-in-law.
Schupbach bought the Village store from his brother-in-law eight years ago. And except for a couple of years of auto mechanic work after graduating from Snellville's Brookwood High in 1988, Schupbach has remained true to the leather trade.
"When my brother-in-law first asked me about it [when he was a teenager], I said, 'yeah, OK.' I did it, I liked it and I stayed with it. I liked it from the beginning."
Besides shoes, Schupbach repairs luggage and nearly anything else requiring stitching, including gun holsters, knife sheaths, belts and handbags. He also does a brisk business selling new Bostonian men's dress shoes and Clark's shoes for men and women.