Jimmy Christeas is so busy he won’t sit still for an interview, running back and forth from the cash to the backroom at Quinpool Shoe Repair, a business he has managed for 10 years and worked in since he was a kid. It has the ambiance of an old-fashioned business where family members drop by to help, friends hang out just to chat, and customers are greeted by name. Business is booming, as it’s one of the few remaining shoe repairs.
Jimmy — his actual name is Dimitri — is the son of Greek immigrants who came to Nova Scotia in the ‘60s. They met here as Jimmy’s father came first along with his five sisters, some of whom returned to Greece. His mother came from the island of Lesbos. His dad was a cobbler in Greece but found restaurant work when he arrived. He later opened a shoe repair on Dutch Village Road and then Bayers Road, where Jimmy would hang out after school while his mom worked as a hairdresser. “I started shining shoes, trimming high-heel lifts at 14. I was just fiddling pretty much, not really working. I was there to come home with him.”
I was like a Hollywood star, the little Greek-Canadian. They were pretty fascinated by it.
Jimmy refers to his west-end home growing up as “a hardcore Greek household, like the back villages of Greece. My parents hardly knew any English so we spoke Greek at home.” There was Greek food and music. The Greek community was small, but tight. “They would do the traditional thing of visiting other shops and hanging around chatting, laid-back Greek style of social living. They’re still like that.”
His parents have been happy in Canada, but they actually returned to Greece for a couple years when Jimmy was seven and built a house. “The kids knew I was from Canada. I was like a Hollywood star, the little Greek-Canadian. They were pretty fascinated by it.” He describes his parents as “old school” but says they didn’t mind him going out and coming home late. “They didn’t know the word ‘grounded’ so I didn’t mention anything to them,” he chuckles.
About 30 years ago, his father bought the shoe repair on Quinpool Road, which Jimmy eventually took over and last year moved across the street. Jimmy left high school to work, and for a while went to night school to finish up his courses. “My parents wanted me to go further with school, but it wasn’t going to happen,” he explains. “One thing my parents never did is pressure me. They saw me as more of a working type than going to school.”
Jimmy lives with his elderly parents and returns every summer to Sparta, often with his son Kosta, an engineering student. He has two sisters — his older one works in a market and the other is a pharmacist. He enjoys the business and the camaraderie it provides. He says repairs change over the years as there are now a lot of plastic shoes and soles. He treats his customers well and takes good care of their shoes, as did his father before him.