How Paul's Shoe Service distinguished itself

Paul Concilio Jr.

This is a story about a business that served Waco and surrounding communities for about 60 years. When Paul's Shoe Service is mentioned, many people will share their memories of having obtained their shoes or their kid's shoes there. They remember the child-friendly atmosphere and decorations, the European clown on a string moving across the fitting room area, the hobbyhorse they could ride, and the Safety-Pop suckers and other giveaways.

Most of all they remember the child-friendly staff. One 5-year-old at a local church preschool was in a discussion of St. Paul when she volunteered that she knew him and he fit her shoes. The preschool teacher couldn't wait to share this story with my dad, the founder of the store!

The business was founded by Paul Concilio (1915-1965), son of Frank Concilio, (1889-1918), and Willie (Ground) Concilio (1894-1985), of Waco.

Frank had another trade. He was a barber, having emigrated from Italy in 1907. His wife Willie was the daughter of Norwegian and Italian immigrants who came to Waco in the 1870s.

Their son Paul left school at the end of the sixth grade and went to work to help support his family. He learned his craft in the shoe repair shop of his uncle, Chris Kemendo. Uncle Chris, also an Italian immigrant, being very patriotic, called his shop Uncle Sam's Shoe Repair.

Uncle Chris was also a big supporter of Waco High athletics in the teens and twenties.

My dad opened his own shop in 1935 on Austin Avenue. He offered shoe repair of all kinds and also made boots to custom order. He wasn't just good at what he did. He was one of the best in the country, winning the Silver Cup national award for excellence in shoe repair in 1940.

At the beginning of World War II, he tried to join the Navy but was rejected due to a heart murmur. Later he was drafted for non-combat duty and served at Sedalia, Mo., Army Air Force Base during the war. He managed a clothing and equipage facility, which included all sorts of boot and shoe repair. He married a Waco girl, the former Doris Eggebrecht, in 1943.

In 1946, he opened Paul's Shoe Service at 1215 North 25th Street in Waco. In the early 1950s he began to sell shoes and was approached by Dr. Joe Woodward of the Bone and Joint Clinic to began to modify children's shoes with medically prescribed corrections.

It was the era of polio. Many kids suffered damage to legs and feet. Paul's Shoe Service became the place in Waco for children's corrective shoe and shoe modifications. The store maintained close relations with pediatricians and orthopedic doctors in order to be sure of serving the needs of their patients.

The business also maintained complete records of shoes sold and doctor prescriptions for each customer. Growth continued so that the store now occupied 1215, 1217, and 1219 North 25th as a much larger business.

In the 1960s my mom's sister Nora Sheetz also began to work at the store. My father died suddenly in 1965. Mom and Nora continued the operation of the store with the help of loyal employees, especially Aleene Carson and Joe Mascarella.

Growth leveled off in the late 1970s and was stable in the 1980's. The early 1990s brought a couple of challenges. Shoes became more casual and disposable and tremendous medical gains had reduced the need for corrective shoes. In addition, the 25th Street area began to decline. It was decided that moving the store to a location to the Woodway/Hewitt area was a necessity.

By this time Nora Sheetz had retired and my sister Cathy was store manager. The store moved to Woodway in 1996 after 50 years on North 25th Street. In 2001, Mom retired and the store was sold to John Janeke, a long-time employee.

It was a very sad day for me when the store closed 2006.

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