Anyone who has played softball or baseball understands the special relationship between player and glove. A broken-in mitt fits like no other, and many players would rather take the field barehanded than with someone else's glove.
Which is why on a recent Friday, Michael Scallia stood at the counter of Buddy's Shoe Repair in Hixson promising the father of a young ballplayer that he would take the boy's broken mitt home and restitch it in time for his game that weekend.
"Oh, yeah, I get those all the time," Scallia later said with a smile. "I do it at night so they can have them the next day sometimes. I've done pro players, [University of Tennessee at Chattanooga] Mocs and a bunch of high school gloves."
Along with gloves, shoes, belts, hats, holsters and purses can, over time, form to fit us so well, they become part of us. Cobblers like Scallia do their best to keep them going, replacing soles when needed or mending with new stitching if possible.
Many of the items are made of leather, but he gets a wide array of pieces in need of his services. He also has repaired sneakers, tractor seats, wallets, boots, skates, motocross seats, leathertop desks, a World War II pouch and even a trampoline.
"A lot of it has sentimental meaning to the person," he said.
He also specializes in full-leather soles for people with multiple sclerosis and orthopedic shoes. Some of his most loyal customers are first responders who want their boots resoled or repaired.
Buddy's Shoe Repair was started by Vincenzo Di Dia, who immigrated to America from Sicily in 1906. He opened Dee's Shoe Repair in Chattanooga in 1917, naming it after his wife.
"He would figure out which side of the street had the most foot traffic and set up a stand there," Scallia said.
He operated a store downtown as well before moving it to the Highland Park area in the '40s. Scallia's dad, Andrew "Buddy" Scallia, moved it to Hixson in 1981. A decade later, he sold the Dee's brand and store, but bought it back a year later.
Michael originally had no interest in repairing shoes and spent his adult life in the auto body finishing business, but when his dad's health became an issue a few years ago, he agreed to join his mother, Barbara, and took some vacation time to help out.
He found he enjoyed the work and has been running the store for about 10 years. "I walked into a business that was flourishing," he said.
Today, he is helped by his wife, Flower, and daughter, Lauryn, who spends some of her time at the shop practicing her sewing and repair skills.
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.