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Expanding Veteran-Owned Company Repairs Soles, Souls

Shoe Repair Butler, of Plano, will open its first franchise in Wal-Mart Thursday night

Plano-based Shoe Repair Butler is poised to expand its business nationwide with the help of America’s largest retailer and the country’s fighting men and women.

Shoe Repair Butler, which provides mail-in and drop-off shoe and accessories repair services, has signed a master lease agreement with Wal-Mart. The agreement will provide the company with an opportunity to open a franchise in any Wal-Mart store that has the space available.

“It’s insane,” Shoe Repair Butler's Michael Reynolds said. "I’m trying to pinch myself. It’s all happening."

Shoe Repair Butler was founded by Manny McCarroll, a military veteran and master shoemaker who both served his country overseas and provided shoe repair butler services for the United Nations and its 4,500 diplomats representing governments all over the world.

“You’re taking something which has been destroyed and you’re making it new again,” McCarroll said.

The same could perhaps be said about his company’s other mission: to employ and empower military veterans.

McCarroll and Reynolds — who both have extensive military service under their belts — will celebrate the grand opening of the pilot Shoe Repair Butler in a McKinney Wal-Mrt at 6 p.m. Thursday. The event is also an open invitation to veterans from North Texas to come learn about the business, and eventually train to become Master Cobblers.

“If you can operate an AR-15, you can operate these machines,” McCarroll said.

McCarroll told NBC DFW he currently employs about 10 people. In the near future, to accommodate the business growth in association with the Wal-Mart locations, McCarroll expects to employ about 100 people. And depending on how many Shoe Repair Butlers open nationwide, McCarroll said he could easily need many more cobblers than that.

“We want to offer veterans jobs,” he said. “That’s what they deserve. We want to be the company that really changes some lives.”

Reynolds shares the same motivation.

“[Veterans] had a purpose. They had a meaning. And now they don’t have one because the job for their function within the military doesn’t correlate or transfer over into the civilian world,” he said. “You can’t explain the feeling you get helping other people, and especially veterans who gave everything, sacrificed everything, so we could be here doing this today.”

Both men smile wide when talk turns to training veterans how to become cobblers. Part of the Shoe Repair Butler business plan is to open an accredited shoe repair school in a partnership with a local college. The exact details of the plan, McCarroll said, are in the working stages.

McCarroll is adamant that the reason the shoe repair industry in the United States is a shell of what it was in the early 20th Century, with only a few thousand repair shops now as opposed to more than 100,000 in the 1930s, is because there is no formal education in the trade.

As for the work, McCarroll said he believes repairing soles can be good for the soul.

“At least for me, shoe repair, actually doing this work, is therapy,” he said. “Every day we’re accomplishing things. A lot of the shoes have a story behind them, sentimental value behind it, so you’re doing something for people. And when you get home at the end of the day, you know you did a good job.”

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