Joe Nyburg, left, and Loren Harvey work in the shoe repair workshop at Saager’s Shoe Shop. Harvey, seen here sanding the edge of new leather shoe sole, has worked at the store since 1969. Nyburg and his wife, Deidre Saager-Nyburg, represent the fourth generation to carry on the family business.
Photo by Donna Lasater.
A comfortable pair of shoes, like an old friend, is something you hold near and dear. So what do you do when a part of your shoe wears out or breaks?
If you're like many Valley residents, you head to Saager's Shoe Shop, 613 N. Main St. in Milton-Freewater. In addition to selling new shoes, the shop offers on-site shoe repair, as they have since the store opened nearly a century ago.
William Saager started the business in 1914, at the same location. “My grandpa was a man of many talents,” said Ron Saager, president of Saager’s Shoe Shop.
William Saager was practical, innovative and self-sufficient, said Ron.
“In his younger days he’d get up in the morning and hitch up 90 head of mules to harvest wheat. He also had a four-acre fruit farm in Milton-Freewater."
Ron Saager said the store’s original name was Freewater Electric Shoe Store, to indicate the store had a light bulb and an electric motor that could be moved to operate apparatuses such as a sewing machine. This was very innovative for the time.
The facility has grown since it opened, expanding north along Main Street. In what is now the repair area of the shop, technicians work in the space occupied by the original store.
The store has always been a family-owned and run operation. Ron Saager’s father, Herb Saager bought into the business in the 1950s.
“Now we’re in the fourth generation,” Ron Saager said. “My daughter now is full time.”
His daughter, Deidre Saager-Nyburg, takes care of much of the managerial work.
Ron Saager loves the work. “It’s remarkable; working here is pure pleasure,” he said.
Over the years, society has become more accustomed to throwing things away rather than repairing them. But, if you have a favorite item you don’t want to get rid of, it may be more cost-effective to repair it.
“If they can be fixed, we fix ‘em,” said repair tech Loren Harvey.
Shoe repair takes many different forms, and Saager’s performs every aspect of repairs, for all types of shoes. “We retrofit, level heels and patch,” Saager said.
In addition to shoes, the shop repairs purses, belts, straps and zippers. It can also modify custom-fit shoes and to extend straps and Velcro.
The repair department is a growing asset to the company.
“It’s where the business started, it’s a cohesive part of the business. We offer a service that is unequalled; that’s a part of what draws people from Seattle and Portland and all over. It’s remarkable,” Saager said. “We fix anything that we can possibly fix: belts, handbags and suitcases.”
If you’re seeking a new pair of shoes, they offer a wide selection. And customers are pampered: Store staff will measure your foot to find the right size and width shoe.
This is important because a person’s feet are as individual as they are, and shoes marked as the same size might be very different.
“There’s a great variation in sizes, and very little consistency in sizing footwear,” he said.
They have plenty of inventory in stock to accommodate their customers. “We just go into our back rooms and come up with the perfect fit.”
Saager purchases many domestically made shoes. One of the U.S. manufacturers he mentioned is SAS, in San Antonio. “They are great quality; lots of selection and many widths,” he said.
The store stays busy, both in sales and repair, but Saager, focused on quality and customer service, has plans for its future.
Reaching customers in more locations through the store’s website is one aspect of this process.
“We have people coming in to have us fix their old favorites. Footwear is a special product,” he said.
“We get attached to footwear like no other product. We get to be old friends.”
Karlene Ponti can be reached at 509-526-8324 or firstname.lastname@example.org.