GI Cobbler retires after five decades
John Pearce has hung up his tools after 55 years in Glen Innes.
John joined his father Reg as a teenage apprentice in 1965, taking over the business a decade later after Reg passed away at just 49 years old. John has a lot of love for Glen Innes and the wider Tamaki area and the community loves him right back, with fourth generation customers visiting the shop, following in the footsteps of their parents and grandparents.
It turns out this community connection has been one of the keys to the business’ success.
“The business has always relied on a relationship with the community that works both ways,” John says. “Over the years, we kept prices down, the quality of work up and provided good service. “My father set up in Glen Innes because it’s a great area.”
However, with Covid-19 enforced lockdown and the lease on his Apirana Ave shop expiring, John says 2020 is a good time to call it a day. “I wanted to retire before I’m 70. I was going to retire a couple of years ago, but my customers wouldn’t let me, so I stopped working Mondays. “My wife Sandra has been my backbone over the years. She’s a great woman.”
Despite his absence, John believes Glen Innes will continue to go from strength to strength. “Glen Innes has a big future ahead of it. I’ve always called Glen Innes a village, because that’s what it is. Here people talk when they run into each other, whereas in shopping malls they bypass each other. “English is a second language for many of our residents, but at the end of the day everyone answers to a smile and a wave.”
John is a supporter of the Tamaki Regeneration Programme and says with all the new housing being built, there are more people coming through the village. That includes many people from outside the area commuting to Glen Innes to do their shopping.
“One of my customers came down from Grace Joel Retirement Village in St Heliers on his mobility scooter with a several pairs of shoes from dfferent residents for me to fix.”
He’s got plenty of plans for retirement, including travelling to Australia to see his grandchildren when the trans-Tasman bubble eventuates and using the extra time to get out on his motorbike. And he’ll continue to support The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride, where classic and vintage style motorcycle riders raise funds and awareness for prostate cancer research and men’s mental health. John will also take home his equipment and continue to offer shoe repair services to rest homes, at least until he runs out of repair materials. “It’s a dying trade. Elderly people that like getting things fixed are getting fewer and fewer.”
One thing John won’t miss is the sore joints that come from a lifetime of manual labour. “Arthritis comes from a lifetime of working with your hands.”
Now all he has to do is find a spot at home in Howick for the replica street sign which bears his father’s name, which was gifted to him by TRC. “I’m over the moon about the street sign. The only challenge was getting it up on the wall in the shop without drilling holes in it.”