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Doris Dixon Continues Cobbler Craft As Heir To Her Husband’s Legacy
10/21/2015 4:25:19 PM

Doris Dixon standing next to the shoe finishing machine at her shop at 536 King Street. Photo: Barney Blakeney
By Barney Blakeney

When she first began working in the shoe repair business, Doris Heyward Dixon had to stand on a makeshift stool to operate the finishing machine that was the center piece of the equipment in the shop owned by her late husband. The machine has become obsolete as have much of the work she once performed on it, but Mrs. Dixon remains as one of the last of the cobblers in an era of disposable shoes.

Not only is her shop, Reeves and Son Shoe Repair, one of only a handful still existing in the shoe business, she is the only female practicing the craft locally. Mrs. Dixon stands just under five feet tall in a petite frame that belies her strength of will. Before her husband Elijah passed almost four decades ago, she was a nursemaid raising the children of others.

Her own son worked with his father in the family business his father had purchased.

The elder Dixon had survived in the business through a fire and moving to two different locations near Radcliff and King streets. But Hurricane Hugo forced him to move to the present location at 536 King St. near Cannon Street. When he died Doris Dixon thought the family business too important to give up. She watched him work over the years, and at night, set up the projects he’d work on the next day. With that limited knowledge and her son’s assistance, she took over the business after her husband’s death.

Mrs. Dixon is quick to reveal she struggled to learn the craft she found intriguing. She admits she had lots of help. The shoe repair business employed a unique corps of craftsmen, a proud group of independent Black businessmen who helped each other in the spirit of friendly competition.

David ‘DJ’ Powell built a stool of wooden soda crates and taught her to run the finishing machine, a piece of equipment that could perform several different functions. Charles Pinckney and Leroy Morrison left their shops to help her finish projects at night. And they taught Dixon’s son Louis the craft. Morrison’s sons Archie and Frank, who still works with her, also shared duties at Dixon’s shop. When they learned Louis, who died in 2014, had become sick they stepped right in, she said.

There’s a lot of history behind this counter, Mrs. Dixon says. With the help of many others including her landlords Samuel and Charles Altman and a corps of volunteers who recently cleaned out the hundreds of pairs of shoes abandoned over the years and painted the shop, that history will continue.

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