Shoemaker hotfoots it to Hamilton

END OF DON'S LINE: Sandal maker Don Harris with the last pairs of Korkers he will be making.
END OF DON'S LINE: Sandal maker Don Harris with the last pairs of Korkers he will be making.

A business built on shoeing Nelsonians in distinctive leather sandals has been sold and is moving out of town.

The man who created Korkers Sandals, named in deference to his Australian roots and the cork component used in building the particular shoes, has sold the business which is moving north to Hamilton.

Don Harris said it was time to take a break from half a century in shoe making and repair. His son Scott Harris will continue to run Topz Shoe Repairs from premises in Wakatu Square where Korkers were made.

"It's about time I started to wind down," said Mr Harris, who turns 70 next year. ‘Korkers has been my baby for the last 20 years and it's been a good ride, I've enjoyed every minute."

Mr Harris had been trying to sell the business for a couple of years and had made up his mind to walk away next year. Then buyer Merv Arnessen turned up. He will move the business to Hamilton and distribute Korkers from there, including Nelson.

Mr Harris bought Topz shoe repair business 27 years ago and started Korkers in 1993, prompted by an expensive pair of sandals he once bought which turned out to be "the worst bloody sandals I've ever had".

"The name Korkers is linked to me being an Australian, and the term ‘corker', plus the footbeds the sandals are built around have cork in them."

Mr Harris and his son once ran the business from a small workshop off the Westpac bank car park in central Nelson. The business had backed on to the Realty Chambers building in Bridge St for 67 years, but needed to move about 18 months ago when the building was demolished.

He does not know exactly how many pairs of the sandals were produced, but easily into the thousands.

"On a good day I'd make 10, 12 or 14 pair a day. That's a 10- to 12-hour day, mind you."

The business was never into seeking awards, other than customer rewards. Mr Harris said a catch phrase was developed around how well he made the shoes, which lasted a long time. His own current pair had lasted about five or six years.

He was not about to cut ties completely with Topz: "I will still go into the shop and help Scott. If we're busy I will be there, and if not, I'll come home and muck around in the garden and try to have a life."

The Nelson Mail