‘It’s a blessing:’ 90-year-old Lubbock businessman celebrating 7 decades repairing shoes

Published: Sep. 28, 2023 at 10:55 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - A Lubbock businessman has spent nearly seven decades repairing shoes for customers across West Texas and Eastern New Mexico. Frank Davila’s impact on the Hub City is being highlighted this Hispanic Heritage Month.

Davila, 90, still uses pen and paper in his shoe repair shop on Auburn Street, just east of North University. The machines inside are also younger than their operator. Davila says his cash register was probably made in the 1940s.

“As long as it works, it’ll do the job,” Davila said.

The 90-year-old cobbler is an expert when it comes to lining and insoles. The machinery is now an extension of his craft. He’s been repairing shoes since the 1950s, but his story begins much earlier.

He was born outside of Laredo in 1933, the son of Mexican immigrants. For several years, his family traveled to New Deal to work the harvest, and in 1942, decided to stay.

“My mother would cry, we’re going to freeze to death, no,” he joked.

Davila says his parents often pulled him out of school to work, and eventually took him out for good after the 4th grade. At 17, he, his mom and one of his sisters became sick with tuberculosis. They were sent to a hospital near San Angelo for treatment.

“I got there, and I wanted to write my dad that I had got there, I went on the bus, that I got there all right. And I had to ask somebody to write me a letter. Man, I was so ashamed. So, when they would write me, I would copy the letters, and I started reading papers, books in Spanish,” Davila said.

Davila says much of his treatment was only to rest. His roommate in the hospital, a shoe repairman from San Antonio, had a different idea. He wanted to teach his fellow patients his trade, so they could bring it home after they healed.

He also connected Davila with a business owner in Lubbock, who gave him his first job in the industry.

“I worked 10 years for him, and I never asked for a raise. Every time I learned a little bit more, he would pay me more,” Davila said.

Davila took over Frank’s Shoe Repair in 1964, giving it the new name.

“So, altogether, again it’s a blessing. It’s a blessing all the way around,” Davila said.

Customers come from all over the area for Davila’s work. A woman from Muleshoe, picking up boots for her father, said Davila is the best around.

Lubbock musician Junior Vasquez has been a customer for more than 30 years, and wants Davila’s craftmanship to be recognized.

“When I would come, I didn’t have to question anything, I would look at the boots and they would be better than when I brought them in, coming out, they looked like brand-new boots,” Vasquez said.

Vasquez says he and Davila can relate, and that friendship is what keeps customers coming in.

“He doesn’t want any drama; he doesn’t want any kudos. That’s not the kind of man he is, at least I gather. But, I thought, it’s the perfect time. It’s the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month, and not only one of the oldest businesses in Lubbock, but one of the older gentlemen running a business in Lubbock, but also he’s Hispanic,” Vasquez said.

Davila says he wishes he had just one penny for every customer he’s served over the last 69 years, but he says he doesn’t need any new customers; his current clients keep him pretty busy.

He plans to serve those customers as long as he can get around.