by Max Marbut
Shoes go through a lot wear-and-tear, especially if you live or work Downtown. Sooner or later, every pair has to be either replaced or restored to its original usefulness.
Since 1904, people who traverse the sidewalks every day have been bringing their shoes to Gus and Company for new heels, soles and other repairs but most often, they come in for a great shine.
The shop is owned by Greg Vaccaro, a third-generation cobbler who has maintained the traditions that started 103 years ago. The founder and namesake of the store died years ago, then the store was run by his brother, Sam, until he died last year.
Vaccaro said keeping the original name does create some confusion from time to time.
“People come in the store and call me ‘Gus’ all the time.”
For the past 103 years, the shop has been a gathering place for Jacksonville’s movers and shakers.
“We shine everybody’s shoes,” said Vaccaro. “Federal judges, county judges, lawyers, doctors, police officers, executives and office workers. Every mayor since 1904 has had his shoes shined here except John Peyton. He has his shoes sent over by messenger.”
With about 200 years of combined experience, the craftsmen who work behind the scenes at Gus and Company can perform any type of shoe, boot or luggage repair required. Every day they use a lot of the original equipment that was there when the shop opened.
“Our motto is we can fix anything except a broken heart,” said Vaccaro.
He added there is another tradition he intends to maintain. Vaccaro said he has no plans for early retirement.
“I’m going to do like Gus and Sam. God willing, I’ll work here forever.”
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