It has been 41 years since Hilda Tellefson became the owner of Coronado Boot and Shoe Repair on Orange Avenue. As a child she always loved to stop by her dad’s leather goods store in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. Now in her 60s she fondly recalls how the shop had 12 men who made suede coats, hats and more. “He’d let me stay for 20 to 30 minutes. I’d get the scissors and measuring tape,” said Tellefson.
As she got older she studied chemistry and was halfway through finishing her college degree when she came to San Diego to visit her cousin. She was 21 years old and liked the warm weather that made her rheumatism disappear. One night her cousin told her they were going out. That night she met a man that would be her first husband.
Tellefson found out that a shoe repair store in Coronado was for sale and she came over to see it. She spoke to the owner who was a native of Russia. He told her, “I want to sell it but I don’t know when.” Tellefson who was eager to learn the business told him she would work for free.
“I came in and helped clean, all the time thinking I could do this job better than him,” she recalled. After three months the owner finally sold the business to Tellefson.
Although Tellefson had not worked as a cobbler, she had experience working with leather. While in college she worked at a tannery and knew about the dyeing process, and mixing colors. At the store she had helped the previous owner find a good cobbler and she learned as time went by. “I was a skinny girl and when customers were rude I felt down, but I felt stronger when they gave me compliments,” she said.
Thirty one years ago Tellefson hired a cobbler that is still working for her. Over the years Coronado Boot and Shoe Repair has been known for the quality of work as well as the variety of work. Tellefson uses only Italian leather at her shop and works with any kind of shoe from athletic to work boots to evening shoe and orthotics. She has also created a way to make military boots more comfortable and many servicemembers go to her shop to have the heel cups replaced with a neoprene material. Tellefson also stretches boots, cleans suede, stitches gloves, and repairs purses. Her prices are reasonable and she uses only quality products for her repairs.
“I finish them as if they are new,” she said of the shoe repair done at the shop.
Tellefson works in the back alongside the cobbler as well as the front talking to customers who pick up and drop off items.
Customers came and went and one young woman had a pair of boots that needed to be repaired. She said her husband sent her there because he is a customer and knows Tellefson does good work.
Tellefson proudly showed off the work done on shoes ready to be picked up. There are black suede UGG boots that were cleaned and look new, cowboy boots that had the tips repaired, white orthopedic shoes for a long time customer. She also showed how she repaired a purse strap by strengthening the inside. It’s the the type of detail work not too many are doing these days. It is estimated that only 5,000 shoe repair stores are left in the U.S. according to the Shoe Service Institute of America.
Tellefson stresses that when customers have good, comfortable shoes they should get them repaired rather than buying new ones. “They can save money and help me,” she said adding that no matter how small or how big the repair is, she is happy to help.
Tellefson is always learning what is the new in the business and now and again she attends conferences to learn new techniques and find out about new machinery available.
Tellefson loves the work she does and knew it right away. “That’s when I knew I was born to serve…God puts you where he wants,” she said.
Over the span of 41 years there have been lean times for the shop but Tellefson has moved forward and puts a smile on her face to greet her customers. “I want to thank my customers. I love this shop. It’s close to my heart,” she said.
The store also carries accessories including Superfeet insoles, laces, polishes and more.
Coronado Boot and Shoe Repair, 863 Orange Avenue. Hours: Mon. 3:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., Tues -Fri. 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., Sat. Noon to 6:30 p.m. Closed Sunday. Call 619-435-5535.