Sept. 8, 1938 – July 1, 2017
Vince “The Shoe Man” Macaluso loved his job.
“I’d rather be here than home,” he told the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal a few weeks before he closed Macaluso’s Shoe Repair on Exchange Street in downtown Lockport in January 2016.
After 68 years in the business, on his feet for more than eight hours a day, even while eating lunch, he was under doctors’ orders to cut his work load. In 2015, he suffered a broken shoulder and a heart attack, then came down with Legionnaires disease.
He donated his brushes to the Niagara County Sheriff’s Department. As for his machinery, he gave some of it to the Niagara County Historical Society and sold the bigger items to shoemakers in Buffalo.
Nevertheless, he wasn’t ready to abandon his trade entirely. At a surprise party that his customers threw for him in his shop thrown after he announced his retirement, he said he hoped to get part-time work with one of those Buffalo shoemakers.
Declining health intervened. He died Saturday in Buffalo General Medical Center. He was 78.
Born in Lockport, the youngest of four sons of a shoemaker, Vincent F. Macaluso began working in his father’s shop, Stanford Shoe Repair on Main Street, when he was 9 years old. Whenever his father’s arthritis prevented him from working, he was called out of high school to finish orders for customers.
He graduated from Lockport High School in 1957 and took over the business in 1959. He also served in the Army National Guard for six years.
He moved to the Exchange Street location in 2009 after a fire destroyed his longtime shop at 93 Locust St.
“His biggest love of all was being labeled ‘Lockport’s Shoe Repairman’,” said his daughter, Lisa Kopacz. “The shop was a place that brought him great joy. He found comfort in being surrounded by the thing he loved to do and interacting with people.”
His daughter noted that he fulfilled many special requests such as lowering heels, sewing up torn leather and installing zippers. He also repaired torn purses, golf bags, leather tack for horses, scabbards for swords and even a ruptured hot-air balloon.
His customers came from all over Niagara and northern Erie counties and as far away as Brockport.
“One woman in Texas mails her shoes to her dad in Olcott, who brings them to me,” Mr. Macaluso told Buffalo Business First in 2003. “After they’re fixed, he picks them up and mails them back to her.”
His biggest job was in 1978, when he saved the day for a production of the musical, “Oklahoma!” at Artpark.
One day prior to the opening, the cast told the director that they could not perform the dances because the stage was too wet. The director went for help to Mr. Macaluso’s late brother, Russell, who lived in Lewiston.
“Russ brought me a bag of 15 to 20 pairs of shoes, and I worked through the night to put rubber soles and heels on them,” he told Business First. “He picked them up and took them back and later that day the show went on. It was a sell-out. They gave me a free pass for the rest of the season.”
In addition to his daughter, survivors include two brothers, Salvatore and Joseph; three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
His former wife, Carol Banks-Macaluso, died in 1990.
A Mass of Christian Burial was offered Thursday in All Saints Catholic Parish, 76 Church St., Lockport.