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Indie in D.C. is a monthly feature on independent makers and retailers throughout the District.
Alfonzo Gregory, 20, owns the business Shoe Resurrection. He is self-taught and has built a reputation for repairing and restoring shoes, specializing in revitalizing sneakers. He developed his business with the help of DC Community Carrot, an organization that provides mentorship for budding entrepreneurs.
Gregory works out of his home in Southeast D.C. You can reach him by texting (202) 971-2714. You can see examples of his work on Facebook (facebook.com/shoeresurrection360/) or on Instagram @hardworking_zo.
DC Community Carrot is the program that you worked with to get your business up and running. Did you know going in that you wanted to do something with shoes? How did it come about?
David, the program director, said, “Find something that you like or something that you want to make a difference and change.” So, I was looking on YouTube and I found these videos of shoe resurrections, of them restoring shoes. It really interested me because the stuff that they were using was affordable. I started trying working on it and the results were better than I thought it was going to be. So I stuck with it right there.
Have you always had an interest in clothing or sneakers or fashion?
Oh yeah. Shoes! Shoes all the time. Especially when I was in school. Everybody, everytime I came to school with a new pair of shoes, everybody said, “Where you get them from, where you get them from?”
What is the most common restoration that you are doing to shoes?
People usually come in for a deep clean. I have a price range. If you are a new customer coming in I will charge you about $25.
What does a deep clean entail?
Get the shoe looking better than what it did before. I use my special product … and it makes the shoe look 100 times better than what it did before.
Did you join DC Community Carrot in order to start your business, or did you join Carrot because you thought it was a cool idea?
No. I joined Carrot because I really didn’t have nothing to do and I was looking for things to do because I knew I could do something. It wasn’t a lot of programs out there that was trying to accept me, so as soon as DC Community Carrot accepted me I took it and ran with it. I said, “I want to become one of the first success stories.” So I took it and never looked back.
Have you had challenging shoes that you’ve worked with before?
Of course. There was one instance where my boss at my job he wanted some Foamposites done. He had scuffs all over his Foamposites—the basketball shoes. Nike basketball shoes. It’s very popular in the DMV.
He brought a pair of those shoes to me and I did not know at all how to get it out. So I was worried, I was freaking out. I was looking on YouTube, and it was so simple and it worked. All I had to use was hand sanitizer and the scuffs got right out like magic.
You mentioned a boss, so are you doing this business and have another job on the side?
Yes. I work at a bar and then I am in class for HVAC training.
So, you work at a bar, do HVAC training, and then have this business. That is a lot.
Yes, it is. Especially because you gotta take your time with the shoes. Because with people, you want the shoe to look like how you would want it to look on your feet. You wouldn’t want to give them something back that’s looking terrible. So, it takes time.
How long does it usually take you to work on a pair?
It varies. But, like, two hours.
Do you want Shoe Resurrection to be the main thing you are doing?
I would like it to be the main thing that I’m doing, because I have a deep passion for shoes. I envision my business having a store in the DMV where you can get all your shoes. You can bring them to me and I can get them looking 100 times better than what they were looking before at a cheaper price.
You work out of your house?
This neighborhood is kinda harsh. Like, with all the crime that’s happening. You see a drug dealer, like, every time you walk out the house. So what I try to do is I try to stay in the house as much as possible. Because there’s a lot of bad things you can get into out here.
I think what you are doing is really cool. I think you are finding your way.
That’s what you got to do. One thing my teacher told me that always stuck in my head—she was my fifth grade teacher—she was like, “Don’t be a lazy bum,” and she made a little song of it. And then, I’m just trying to make it, basically. Because you gotta do something.