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CHICAGO (CBS) — They call him the Mayor of 57th Street.
“Everyone wants something come ask me, where’s this, where’s that,” laughs Constantinos “Gus” Lukis, owner of Hyde Park Shoe Rebuilders, 1451 E. 57th St.
For over half a century, Lukis, 82, has been waking up before dawn to fix broken soles and rundown heels.
“Sometimes I get here at 4 a.m. I fix work boots, dress shoes, everything,” he said.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Lisa Fielding reports
Born in Chicago but raised in Greece, Lukis’ uncle opened the small Hyde Park shop in 1914. It was a fixture in the neighborhood since the First World War.
“He said you better come take over the store, so I did,” Lukis said.
In 1959, the store moved to its current location. Today, it is one of the last surviving shoe repair shops in Hyde Park, and one of a few in all of Chicago.
“I’m the last of the Mohicans, per se,” he said.
Over the years he has fixed the wingtips of Nobel Prize winners, the loafers of University of Chicago students and even the big shoes of President Barack Obama.
“They tell me President Barack Obama came in as a student. I say I don’t remember him,” he laughed.
Shoes line the shelves and sit in bags in the small shop, postcards from his homeland and black and white photos of his family cover the walls and large, antique cast iron machines fill the cramped room, machinery from a time gone by.
“These machines are probably 40 years old,” he said. “They are good, solid machines, they don’t break.”
The history of Hyde Park is contained in the notebook where Lukis has his customers write down their names and phone number when they bring their shoes.
For his customers, he’s family and they say he gives the personal service you just can’t find anymore. Abe Amaro says he represents a sense of community.
“He’s more than just a shoe repair man, he’s our friend. Everybody in Hyde Park loves him,” said Amaro.
For Lukis, retirement came and went. He says he was supposed to retire 20 years ago.
He says he’ll probably never hang up his boots, but will be fixing them til he dies.
“We’ll have to carry him out of here. He’s a fixture in Hyde Park,” said Amaro.