Their heart and sole is in shoe repair: Part II
By Kris Leonhardt
What began in the Purdy Junior High building so many years ago blossomed into a marriage that welcomed two children, Dennis Jr. and Jeff.
While growing their family, Carol and Denny Nelson were growing their shoe repair business. They moved the business from their home to a location on Central Avenue.
“We moved it behind a shoe store. It was called Colbert’s,” recalled Carol. “It was in the back of the store. Colbert used us for traffic.”
The couple stayed there for two years but soon outgrew that facility.
“It wasn’t enough,” explained Carol. “That’s when we went into used skates to supplement our income.”
Carol also worked at the lunch counter at Woolworth’s, as the shoe repair business was getting its start.
The couple then looked for a larger building to house their expanding shop.
“We went into a place that had been a harness shop,” recalled Carol. “It was Gaulke’s Harness Shop. The hobby business started there in that shop with model airplanes, model cars, and things like that.
“Then, one day the door opened and a salesman came in that Denny knew from Colbert’s, and he said, ‘I’d like you to sell Red Wing Shoes.’ He even bought the first $500 worth, and we paid him back. That’s how we got started.”
The Nelsons remained loyal and grateful to the man who had given them their start.
“We closed the store when he died and went to the funeral because we had so much respect for him, and we were so grateful to him for starting us out,” added Carol.
With the growing demands of the store, the Nelsons soon needed another set of hands.
“Denny was working alone in shoe repair, and Don Zager was a new fireman here,” said Carol. “He walked in one day and said, ‘Do you need any help?’”
Zager remained with the Nelsons for 50-plus years.
Over the next decades the family and business continued to grow. Denny and Carol welcomed two more children, Jill and Chris, 13 years apart from the first two siblings.
The Nelson’s business made multiple moves before landing in its current location at 912 S. Central Ave. as well as expanding into shoe repair outlets in area towns.
“Shoe repair was a big business,” said Carol. “We had Don and Denny repairing shoes. We branched out, and we had about 13 outlets. We had dry cleaners and other places take in shoe repair.”
After Denny’s death in 2007, Carol struggled to get through the pain and loss of her longtime steady. “I think coming back (to the store) helped her get through it,” said daughter Jill Spindler.
Today, their card file is a reflection of 60 years of business and customer loyalty.
“There are people with three cards stapled together,” explained Jill. “They are single line back and front, and they are full.”
Nelson’s Shoe & Shoe Repair owner Carol Nelson recalls her job working the lunch counter at Woolworth’s in Marshfield.