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Jesse Davis
Photograph by George Sakkestad

Jesse Davis

All the Shoes That Fit

By Hiya Swanhuyser

THE INCREASINGLY HOMOGENOUS NATURE OF RETAIL AND SERVICE industries is a common gripe for Santa Cruzans and others around the world who value the unique, the quirky, the artisanal and the local. Strip malls filled with identical shops all line the same few pockets.

In contrast, the little shoe repair shop across the street from the Clock Tower is a haven of reality: real machines sit ready to perform an actual, useful service; the building is made of solid, built-to-last bricks and the man who works there exudes the confidence and kindness of a person used to making his own decisions. While many workers cringe inwardly and wonder what their overworked manager will find to yell at them about next, Jesse Davis knows what his job is, makes time to do it and takes pride in his hard work.

Davis spent 14 years in Capitola, and has been in his new space only about a year. How does it compare?

"It's OK. A lot of times people don't know where I am. I should just get a comfortable chair, sit outside so people can see me and have a beer or something," he says, then changes his mind. "I better not have a beer. I might cut my finger off."

His 40 years of experience have made him good at his job, apparently, but not that good.

Handwritten signs outline some specifics: "No work done while you wait." "Open at 9am and not before." For all that, Davis is one of the friendliest people in all of downtown.

"I like people. I love to talk. I got it from my mother."

People wander in and out of the shop, some friends, some neighbors. "Can you just put a little glue on here?" asks a man in a restaurant apron. "Let me see," says Davis. He glues the part, then instructs, "Wait five minutes. If it doesn't stick, come back."

What shoe-related mistakes do people make over and over?

"Women," Jesse says, chuckling, "will buy shoes in the morning." He pauses, really laughing now. "You know, when your feet are smaller." A great mystery of life, cleared up by Jesse Davis. "If people would just buy shoes in the evening, they would fit better."

Well, what about men? "Men are vain about their feet. I don't understand it."

Jesse Davis seems supremely relaxed, but not at all like one of the hippies he loves to joke about (ask Bruce Bratton what they used to do with the Vietnam flag, he says). He simply has the air of a man who has an honest way of making a living, and one that affords him the dignity we all deserve. But is he really happy?

"Yeah. Oh yeah."

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Readers' Choice Awards

Best Food & Drink
Best Music & Nightlife
Best Goods & Services
Best Sports & Recreation
Best Arts
Best People & Places
Best Write-Ins

Critics' Choice Awards

Stuart Finch: Rock Balancing Act
Isabel Piekarski: Latin Dance Sensation
Juan Cuellar: Compassionate Warrior
Nate Brunskill: Film Fanatic
Warren Odell: Tour Guide to an Anomaly
Sarah Gerhardt: Woman Who Rides Mountains
Seema Weatherwax: Late-Blooming Photographer
Stephanie Smith: Student of the Sciences
Theo Paige: The Not.So.Mad Fiddler

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From the March 21-28, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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