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Michael’s Shoe Repairs

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Michael’s Shoe Repairs

Christopher Hapeshis, also known as Michael after his father, is the owner of one of Vauxhall’s oldest and most loved shops. Michael’s Shoe Repairs is a 3-generation family-run business specialising in traditional shoe and leather repairs, and key cutting. Last year, the shop celebrated a whopping 60 years since they opened their doors on 45 South Lambeth Road. Having just marked such a landmark occasion, we couldn’t resist sitting down with Christopher to find out a bit more about the history of the shop, its celebrity clientele, and his love for Vauxhall.

In March 1962, Michael Hapeshis entered the shop on South Lambeth Road and was met with a cold, unwelcoming space. Christopher recalls his father’s first impressions, “it was like walking back into the 19th century. The shop inside was very dark and the previous repairer had his workshop in a dimly-lit back room with the shop window mostly covered.” Michael proceeded to inject some much-needed life and love into the old shoe repair shop. With a few tweaks to the layout, which saw the workbench take pride of place in the window, the shop became a Vauxhall attraction, “people were fascinated by his craft, especially watching him replace and cover stiletto heels which were high fashion at the time.”

The business soon became a family affair, with Christopher’s mother, a dressmaker by trade, making and selling the leather and suede hot pants that were all the rage in the 70s. On Saturdays and after school, a young Christopher would sweep the floors and put finished shoes in bags until he started working full-time with his father in 1980, and eventually took over the business when his parents retired in 1996. Like father like son, Christopher has kept the business in the family. Not only does his wife work in the shop replacing zips and repairing bags and other leather goods, but his son, Andreas, also joined the team in 2012. Andreas’s tech-minded ideas have brought the business into the 21st century and connected this local business in Vauxhall to a global audience, with an international collection and delivery service and online shop. 

The shop’s stellar reputation for repairing expensive designer shoes is built on a family tradition whose foundational pillars have always been skilled craftsmanship and care; “my goal was to take the business to a higher level by expanding my skills and increasing what the shop offered. My father always advised me that buying the best top-quality materials would make for good workmanship and that way, your customers would always return.” And do they! Not only is the shop a community staple flocked by locals in Vauxhall and greater London, but a number of customers fly in from all over the world, “some come directly to me from the airport, drop their shoes off and collect them a week later on their way back.” Their international renown attracts a diverse group of people, many of whom become firm friends. In the 70s, the singer Julie Driscoll lived opposite and quickly became a regular. Joanna Lumley and Richard O’Brian have also been known to darken their doorway, while the business is the first port of call for shoe repairs for a number of stage actors, film studios, and TV shows of the likes of Only Fools and Horses

The shop’s ability to bring together people from all walks of life reflects much of the spirit of Vauxhall that’s still very much alive today, “Vauxhall means a lot to me, I grew up in the area. We’ve been here 61 years and […] I would say for me, it’s the same. Different people but the same.” And it’s this love for a close-knit community that has ensured both the survival of the shop and a deep appreciation for its owner. Having shared his secret of being a Marilyn Monroe fanatic in a recent reel, he laughs, “I have customers coming in with books, pictures, posters, because of that!” So next time you’re in the area, why not pop in to say hello to one of Vauxhall’s oldest and most loved cornerstone businesses – oh and some Marilyn Monroe memorabilia wouldn’t go amiss!