*When a city decides to name a day after you, you know you have arrived. Let’s face it, its no everyday occurrence and there is nothing ordinary about it. So you must have done something pretty extraordinary.
So what could a shoe repairman possibly have done to warrant such an honor?
For starters, how about writing a song that brings an entire community together during a period of civil unrest. Or perhaps using the money you earned doing a McDonald’s jingle to purchase a vacant building that caters to children in need.
Yep. That’ll do it! Meet James Napier…
Napier’s dad, a musician, knew his son loved music; but he also wanted to give him something that would serve as a means of support while chasing his dreams. So he introduced James, then 14, to the art of shoe repair, along with this advice: “If you learn this trade, wherever you go in the world, if they wear shoes, you can get a job.”
Today that son says, “To be honest with you, it’s kind of worked out that way.” At 55-years-old, I guess you can say that James Napier adds a little extra soul to his day job. It’s been three years since he opened Capital Shoe Repair and Leather Work in downtown Dover, Delaware, and his skills in shoe repair along with his talent has not gone unnoticed.
On April 26, 2003 the City of Cincinnati claimed “James Napier Day,” at a celebration that also honored super producer L.A. Reid. Both men were honored for their contributions to the city. Known by the stage name Lashaade, Napier co-wrote a song that brought people together during a period of civil unrest in the city. He also has several albums soul and gospel albums out, which features cover of songs originated by by artists like Luther Vandross and Sam Cook.
Napier also earned $70,000 in 1993 from a radio jingle he made for McDonalds. He used a portion of those earnings to purchase a vacant building that caters to children in need.
“I didn’t want to learn it at first,” he said about the shoe repair trade, because music was always his first love. But shoe repair has been his ace-in-the-hole as he travels around the country doing his music.
He says Dover brought the change he was looking for, when he settled there three years ago.
He credits his shoe repair trade for bringing interesting people and shoes his way, which averages about 25 pairs of shoes each day, with the jobs varying anywhere from simple to complex.
Take the leather cowboy boot with an American flag pattern that sits on his work bench. Its waiting for the newly installed zipper to be completed. The customer wears a brace on their leg, which made sliding the boot on difficult. So he asked Napier to install a zipper.
Napier has been fortunate and business has been good. He knows that during a slow economy, people aren’t running around buying expensive new shoes every month. They want quality so they buy shoes that will last over time.
“You’ve got good shoes, and you have cheap shoes,” he said. “Nowadays you got Allen Edmonds, a real good shoe, $300 a pair, you’re not throwing them away every month.”
Whistle while you work is definitely a cliche that has meaning to this tradesman; who says that music and shoe repair will always be a constant in his life.
“It’s been a long time, and it’s been good,” he said. “When I’m out on the road singing, I always had a shoe repair somewhere in Cincinnati, I had people work for me and I’d go back and just do my thing man.”