“I love Harut. He will patch your crappy old favorite shoes and re-heel your boots and put new leather straps on your handbags and proudly explain to you how he did it. He'll show you pictures of his family (including one of Mike Tyson holding his baby grandson), give you lots of big warm bear hugs and sloppy old man kisses and send you on your way feeling like a million bucks.”
That’s how one of the 15 reviews on Yelp for Harut’s Shoe Repair starts out, vividly highlighting why this “old-fashioned service [is] so rare these days.” Located roughly midway on the block of Eagle Rock Boulevard immediately south of Swork, Harut’s Shoe Repair has been an Eagle Rock favorite since it first opened in 1980.
Eagle Rock Patch stopped by on Thursday to ask the store's owner, referred to fondly as only Harut, about his 32 years fixing broken heels and handbags while offering free psychological therapy to customers, not all of whom are his admirers.
Harut recently returned from a month-long trip to his native Armenia—his first since he emigrated to the United States nearly 35 years ago. Here’s what he told Patch:
"I was born in Israel in 1947 [while it was still Palestine] because my grandfather went there after the Armenian Genocide. My father had five brothers, and he moved to Armenia when I was four months old. But all my uncles and cousins stayed in Israel. Later, some of them went to Jordan, Lebanon, America—everywhere.
"When I came to America in January 1978, we didn’t take one penny—no welfare, no nothing from the government. Even though for a month and a half we only had bread and tea. Thanks to God, my children grew up and I am proud of them. My son was born here. He got two Master’s degrees and works for the City now. My daughter is a manager in a doctor’s office.
"I turned 65 years old recently. Every nine months I go to the doctor to get my heart checked because I have heart trouble. I also have diabetes and back pain. The doctor said my heart is fine and that I can travel. When I came home, my wife told me: ‘Your heart is okay, then we have to go.’ I said, where? She said, to Armenia.
"I had been telling my wife for the past three or four years that I want to see Armenia before I die. I didn’t expect that she was going to do something like that, and at first, I didn’t believe it. I said, are you kidding? I didn’t think we had enough money. But my wife put it away (laughs). And she made me a surprise.
"I didn’t have any relatives in Armenia. But I had family friends—and good memories—and that’s why I went back there after 35 years. I went everywhere. I lived there 30 years and had not been to the areas where I went now. I am very happy. My wife was very happy, too. I hope we’re going to have more life and more chances to go see Armenia again.
"It’s a very small country but it has natural beauty. It’s just unbelievable. The mountains have different colors from the mountains here. I’m going to say to everybody in the world, if they have a chance—go to see Armenia."