HOPE — Even if Carleton Leavitt doesn’t know you, he may know your shoes.

Shoes are delivered to his shop on Hatchet Mountain Road in the old Hope Fire Station. They are dropped off for him in Belfast and Rockport by people in need — folks with broken high heels, dog-chewed cowboy boots, and threadbare clogs.

“A lot of these people, I’ll never meet,” he said of his customers.

Hope, Maine’s premier cobbler said he remembers one pair of shoes in particular. They were odd and he could only think to call them “pilgrim shoes.” They came to his little shop, he fixed them and sent them off to be reunited with the owner he never saw.

A short time later he found himself in Belfast and met a woman with long dreadlocks. And there on her feet were those exact same pilgrim shoes.

Kiss My Boots workshop is located at the old Hope fire station. Photo by Daniel Dunkle

Leavitt’s shop, Kiss My Boots, is at the corner of the building, and standing by his door you can look right over and see the Hope General Store (he recommends the sandwiches there). Above his door is a big wooden cowboy boot made by one of his two industrious sons.

The big wooden cowboy boot welcomes customers to the Kiss My Boots shoe-repair workshop in Hope. Photo by Daniel Dunkle

The shop is filled to the max. A row of cowboy boots sit atop a long machine with wheels of bristles for brushing and polishing. The cans of polish litter the shelf below. Scissors and similar tools unknown to the writer hang on nails along another wall. If Indiana Jones has a Well of Souls, Leavitt has a wall of soles.

He has big, green-metal industrial factory-looking machines for stitching and sewing. Talking about another tool that looks a bit like the Tin Man’s calf if it could be cranked to widen itself, he says, “You can’t even buy these anymore.” That tool is a “thigh stretcher,” by the way.

A multitude of tools are in easy reach. Photo by Daniel Dunkle

He fixes boots and shoes of every make and model, he works on leather jackets, gear for horses and anything with zippers. He can sew together stitching that has come undone, or glue or nail a new sole in place.

If you gain weight or your feet flatten, he can stretch your boots and shoes to accommodate the hands of time.

Shoes, signs, and factory machines fill a small space in the workshop. Photo by Daniel Dunkle

He is busy too, taking calls and receiving visitors throughout the interview.

People can make special requests. Take a cowboy boot, for example. Back in the old days, they had metal caps that hit the ground to protect the feet and decrease wear. Now those caps tend to be made with Neoprene, which is not as loud banging on the floor.

Leavitt said one customer asked him to make the boots old-school with metal. “She says, ‘I want to make some noise.’” He smiled at that.

Carleton Leavitt has collected an assortment of machines to repair shoes with in Hope. Photo by Daniel Dunkle

This is what retirement looks like for Leavitt. He is a cancer survivor. He’s had other careers. In the past he did cabinetry and he later worked on jewelry for Michael Good Gallery. When it came to doing shoe work, he said he is self-taught.

He lives in Rockland and works part-time in Hope (five days a week, a couple hours a day). His two sons, Josh and Ben, and his two granddaughters live in Hope and get off the bus right at the shop. His wife Leslie works at Camden Harbor “catching lines” and selling tickets for the schooner Surprise and the sloop Anjacaa.

He’s looking forward to his 50th wedding anniversary and 73rd birthday on April 9.

If your shoes are in need of repair, there is a drop off for him at Super Shoes in Rockport and at Home Supply Center in Belfast. His rates are low enough that it saves to mend rather than spend on a new pair of Mukluks or, even if you could find them, pilgrim shoes.

Carleton Leavitt repairs shoes in his workshop in Hope. Photo by Daniel Dunkle

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