I discovered a gem of a story in T: The New York Times Style Magazine about Tom Lonergan and his booming business as an independent repairman for the shoe company, Birkenstock. Here is a man who, after retiring from real estate 10 years ago, was looking for something to “keep him ‘out of trouble,'” had worn Birkenstocks himself, and enjoyed working with his hands. The company offered him a trial license as an authorized repairman as long as he agreed to buy the equipment necessary, which he did. Lonergan knew nothing about the rise in popularity of the Birkenstock sandal a few years ago (thanks in part to Céline’s Spring/Summer 2013 collection), or how it has grown to be a fashion hit in places like New York and L.A.; in fact, he has no idea about couture, or fashion trends and fads, or when this shoe went from ugly to super-cute.
What he does know is his craft – repairing over 1,000 pairs a year – that Birkenstock customers are long-standing and loyal. And that the business of repairing Birks may be going to the dogs. Says Lonergan, “The people who’ve been loyal wearers are really good customers. Plus, there’s always the dogs. People love Birks, but dogs love Birks. I probably get three phone calls a week where the dog has destroyed a pair.”
The Birkenstock Doctor, written by Alex Ronan, appeared in T Magazine on August 28, 2015.