A family of cobblers

Owner of Hakky Shoe Repair tends to the needs of customers

By Glenda Winders // Photography by Tony Vasquez

On a recent morning at the Hakky Shoe Repair shop in the Greenwood Park Mall, one customer brought in shoes that needed new heels. Another had bowling shoes that were a bit too large. Then, a man with weak ankles needed reinforcement in his new sneakers, and a woman, who wears heavy boots to work, was looking for insoles to help comfort her feet.
Dominic Mina was cheerfully helping all of them, stopping only momentarily to respond to a greeting from someone walking by in the mall. He called that person by name and asked about the individual’s children. Meanwhile, customers chatted and made suggestions about one another’s shoe-related issues. In the end, they all left with their respective problems resolved.
That’s the kind of place Hakky Shoe Repair is, and that’s the kind of person Dominic Mina is. His customers range from people needing orthopedic build-ups or new soles to Santa Claus, who after the holiday season, wanted new fur on his boots. Mina also puts new zippers in coats, clasps on handbags, handles on luggage – and about every other kind of repair need people bring in, always relishing the challenge.
“I love doing what I do,” he said. “It’s all about helping each other.”
Mina comes by his profession and his positive, can-do attitude naturally from a long line of cobblers and tailors who began doing this type of work in Italy almost two centuries ago. Mina’s grandfather, Salvatore, sold his olive orchards to come to the United States in the 1930s, leaving his pregnant wife behind and repairing shoes in his new home to hopefully establish a new life for the couple. However, World War II kept him from returning to Italy, and his wife was afraid to come to the United States because her brothers had been killed in a race-related riot here, so Salvatore’s son, Aldo — Dominic’s father, didn’t meet his own father until he was 16 years old. Aldo eventually became the head tailor for Jacobson’s in Indianapolis.
Dominic’s brother Anthony is a tailor in Indianapolis, and other brother, Gino, repairs shoes in Fishers. Dominic’s son, Nicola, works with him at Hakky and will take over if his father ever retires. Nicola’s two sons, ages seven and three, are already looking forward to the day when they can start repairing shoes.
“All my family has ever done is trade with their hands,” Dominic said, “and that’s why it’s so comfortable for Nick and me to do what we do now.”
Dominic grew up in the Garfield Park area of Indianapolis and graduated from Manual High School. He wasn’t interested in going to college, so his father suggested he learn shoe repair from a family friend. He spent three years with his mentor and then went to work at Greenwood Park, where he has remained for approximately 40 years.
In the beginning, Dominic was a manager for the Hakky company. Later, the organization gave him the opportunity to buy the franchise, which he was able to do with assistance from his father. But the COVID-19 pandemic adversely affected the company’s business. So today, the store belongs solely to Dominic.
Now, in addition to repairing shoes, he also sells work boots and comfort shoes for diabetics. But that isn’t all Dominic does. He is also a skilled maker of orthotic insoles and the deep shoes that accommodate them, supplying them for both clinics and individual customers.
“We’re not just a full-service fixing shop,” he said. “We take care of people’s feet, and there aren’t very many of us who do that anymore.”
He also repairs shoes in Brownsburg, where there is no shoe repair shop. In fact, by way of a dry-cleaning business in the area, shoe repair pickups, drop offs and deliveries are managed.
Nick runs the family store on weekends, but if orders are extensive, it’s not unusual for Dominic to take shoes home for repair during his time off. He said doing so gives him something else to do while he watches sporting events on television.
Even with all the shoe-related work keeping Dominic busy, he somehow finds time to play bass guitar in a group known as the Blind Side Band and to cruise with his grandchildren in a restored Camaro ZL1 convertible.
For most of his years in business, Dominic has been a divorced dad with custody of his daughter, Carlina, now 37, and Nick, 38. When his children were younger, Dominic’s mother and sisters helped care for them, but sometimes he took them to the shop when they weren’t in school and that’s how Nick caught the “shoe-repair” bug.
When he was 14 years old, Nick asked his father if he could help at the store, so Dominic gave him small jobs such as shining the shoes that had already been repaired. Now, despite having a bachelor’s degree in art and computers from Indiana University and having worked in that field for a few years, the shop is where Nick wants to be.
“This feels like home,” he said. “Everything I know about this business I learned from my dad. This is our legacy, and we’re proud of what we do.”
Dominic is especially proud of the way Nick can restore damaged footwear, such as shoes chewed up by dogs or Ugg boots that have been damaged by salt and snow.
Clearly the son has learned his father’s ethics and people skills, too.
On another recent day at the shop, Nick delights a woman by telling her he can loosen the too-tight straps on her high-heeled sandals. He prides himself on knowing what people need before they tell him. When a woman begins to talk about the magnetic clasp on her purse, he politely interrupts to inform her that he can change it to a snap.
And like his dad, Nick greets every customer personally.
“I know you wanted round toes on these boot soles, but all I had were square,” he jokingly said to a man who stopped by to pick up square-toed cowboy boots that now look brand new.
“I think it’s a personality trait to be a problem solver,” Nick continued. “And it’s instant gratification when a project comes in rough and when the person comes to pick it up, they say, ‘I didn’t know you were going to give me a new purse or a new pair of shoes.’”
One customer who has said exactly those words is Yekaterina Filonova, who sells real estate in Carmel but drives to Greenwood so Dominic can work on her shoes. She recently brought in a heel that had been caught in a grate during a house showing. Fortunately, Dominic was able to eliminate all traces of damage.
“He’s very particular and very detailed,” she said. “He makes things happen, and he always finds solutions to my problems. He can’t be satisfied until the work is perfect. Work that is just okay would drive him crazy. He does a quality job. He is a master at what he is doing. I wouldn’t take my shoes to anyone who doesn’t do his quality of work.”
And it doesn’t look like she will need to.
“My dad will never retire,” Nick said while laughing.
“If I was thinking about retiring, I wouldn’t have brought my son in,” Dominic quickly retorted. “We’re open seven days a week. I’ve got to help him. Besides, I love my work. We make people happy.”