Shoe cobbler forced into early retirement, plans to travel


Frank Serrao, center, stands with his son and five of his six grandchildren in his Shoe Repair shop on its last open day, Friday, April 2. (Photo/Kelly Thomas)

Frank Serrao’s Shoe Repair store in Allegheny Center Mall was the last indication that the giant office complex once bustled with retail stores and shoppers.

Friday, April 2 marked the 25-year-old cobbler shop’s final day, and now it too has gone the way of Sears. But you won’t find Frank Serrao popping up in the suburbs after getting squeezed out of the city like the department stores.

Instead, Serrao wants to work in his garden, relax and travel — perhaps to Europe or around the United States.

“I have been several places,” he says in his thick Italian accent. “But I still [would] like to do a little more.”

Higher rent prices forced Serrao out of the mall, and although he entertained the idea of setting up shop elsewhere and many customers urged him to do so, he decided against it.

“I decided to turn them down for the simple reason that you move to a different location, you have to start all over,” and that takes time, he says.

Born in Italy, Serrao arrived in New York City on October 15, 1951, and moved to Pittsburgh to be with his family. He settled on Latimer Street, which used to be home to an Italian community.

“It’s gone now, forget it,” he says of the community.

He went back to Italy and got married, and his wife came to live with him in Pittsburgh in 1962 with their month-old son in tow. They later had two daughters and now six grandchildren.

Before opening shop on his own, Serrao worked at Gimbels department store Downtown for 25 years.

“I had very good customers,” Serrao says. “They come to me because I do great work.”

A sign in his shop read, “My good work is my best advertisement.”

“Whatever I do, nobody else can do,” Serrao said.

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