HAYWARD — Just one shop specializes in footwear downtown. And it’s celebrating its 60th anniversary.
Step inside Cobblers, 22443 Foothill Blvd., and you can browse cowboy boots on shelves, hats on stands and buck knives under glass.
What’s not for sale are tennis or running shoes, the store opting to sell the kind of footwear popular when it first opened, and that has kept customers returning for decades.
“We don’t sell Nike’s,” said Rudy Grasseschi, patriarch of the family-run business, who most days can be found at the front counter in his work apron, ringing up sales or fielding questions from customers.
The 82-year-old, who can dart quickly from the counter to the shop’s front door then back to the spot where shoes are repaired, looks much like the old-world craftsmen from whom he’s descended.
His father, who arrived in the Bay Area in 1906 from Italy, sold and fixed shoes. So too did Grasseschi’s grandfather in Italy.
“Rudy’s Wisdom! Free,” a handwritten sign behind the counter says.
“All repairs to be paid in advance,” another one says.
On a recent morning, Grasseschi was busy packaging hiking boots that were repaired for a former Alameda resident who now lives in Fairbanks, Alaska.
“She said there’s nobody in Fairbanks that repairs shoes,” Grasseschi said, studying the address label on the box. “That’s a long way to send shoes.”
His son, Dino Grasseschi, who works in the store full time, was taping another package. It contained cowboy boots the store had dyed burgundy. The boots were destined for the city of Clovis in Fresno County.
“This is going to the rodeo girls,” Dino Grasseschi said.
Cobblers ships out items about five times a month. Much of its business is walk-ins, even though Foothill Boulevard with its busy traffic does not attract a lot of window-shoppers, Rudy Grasseschi said.
Motorcycle riders, however, are regulars. They like their boots re-soled with “vibram lug,” a thick, endurable rubber that’s also popular with firefighters.
“It’s got a lot of grip on it,” Rudy Grasseschi said. “The bikers like it because their boots get a lot of wear-and-tear when they pull up at traffic lights.”
Cobblers opened in June 1958. But its origins stretch back to 1932, when Rudy’s father, Alfred Grasseschi, opened a shoe shop on what’s now Mission Boulevard.
Grasseschi initially operated Cobblers with his older brother, Alfred, who retired in 1998, but who still helped with bookkeeping until he died in 2015.
Grasseschi’s son, Rodney, also works in the store, as well as a grandson, Kenneth.
“We are doing well for an independent,” Grasseschi said.
Just about everyone in the family — nephews, nieces, cousins — has worked in the store at some point, especially growing up, when they would help out after school or on Sundays.
Grasseschi met his wife, Lois, in Hayward, and they married in July 1957 at All Saints Catholic Church on Second Street. Cobblers opened less than a year later.
At that time there were about 15 shoe stores and five shoe repair shops in Hayward, as well as retailers such as H.C. Capwell’s and J.C. Penny selling footwear.
“We are the only one left in downtown Hayward,” Grasseschi said, noting that many people now get shoes online. “But that’s also what has happened throughout the United States.”
Customers still come in following an online purchase, he said. They will want their shoes stretched or other adjustments made so they fit better.
We love our customers, so feel free to visit during normal business hours.
22443 Foothill Blvd, Hayward, California 94541, United States
Monday.............9am - 6pm
Tuesday.............9am - 6pm
Wednesday.......9am - 6pm
Thursday...........9am - 6pm
Friday................9am - 7pm
Saturday...........9am - 5:30pm