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Tim Sontag retiring from Xenia Shoe and Leather after nearly 40 years.

In Local News on December 27, 2020 at 7:44 pm

Sontag’s last official day will be December 31, 2020.

By Gery Deer

Video: Tim Sontag talks about his life’s work and retirement from Xenia Shoe & Leather Repair.
Video courtesy of GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. – Copyright 2020, All Rights Reserved.

Xenia, Ohio – December 28, 2020 – Tim Sontag and Xenia Shoe and Leather Repair have been a dependable fixture in downtown Xenia. After 38 years, he has decided to hang up his leather tools and hand over the reins for a well-deserved retirement. As of January 1, 2021, the new owner will be long-time employee Matt Jopson.

“I found a great spot across from the Greene County Courthouse in downtown Xenia,” he said and opened his doors in June of 1982. At first, the shop was not exactly the warm, welcoming place it is today. “I remember spending the first winter working here,” Sontag remembered. “I was working over a little Kerosene heater fixing shoes because I was worried about the cost of heating it.” 

Tim Sontag (left) and long-time employee turned new owner, Matt Jopson.

When the store next door went out of business, Sontag acquired a Red Wing account and expanded into shoe sales. He later added Birkenstock and other brands to the line and began updating the repair shop into a high-end retail space. One of Sontag’s specialties has been in pedorthics, using footwear to help ease various types of foot, ankle, and heel conditions.

Originally, Sontag worked alone. But soon he brought in some part-time assistants who eventually became full-time employees. Some of his current employees have been with him for more than 20 years. “It’s been a gradual process of growing employee by employee, and customer by customer over many years.”

The independent shoe and leather repair shop is a dying breed, according to Sontag, but people are moving more toward keeping things longer and having them repaired rather than throwing them away. “I think we offer a personal service in repair and shoe sales and fitting that you just don’t see much anymore, helping people with problem feet or who are just hard to fit.”

That independent spirit has also offered Sontag some great opportunities over the years for custom work. Along with the usual flow of shoe and leather garment repairs, Sontag and his team have been involved in some unique projects over the years as well. 

“We’ve had many odd things over the years,” he explained. For example, “making a custom harness for an elephant, and gloves and mouthpieces for trapeze artists.” He added they have also made custom equipment for scuba diving, equestrians, and specialty designs for the whip training school in Jamestown.

As a lifelong craftsman, the work and the people are what kept him going. “I really enjoy the variety, I enjoy the sort of problem-solving of repair and the craftiness of it, and the satisfaction of the completed job,” he said.“Xenia and Greene County and the greater Dayton area have all been very supportive of us and I really enjoy the customers.”

In his retirement, Sontag said he and his wife would like to travel again, pandemic-permitting, as his two sons live one in Maine and the other in Denmark. He has one grandchild he would like to see more and he has siblings scattered around the country. “I love table tennis and I try to play two or three times a week,” he said. “And my wife and I will probably do more gardening and I love to work with my hands so I’ll probably do some woodworking.” He also hinted that he may return to the shop and help out from time to time. 

As for what’s next for Xenia Shoe and Leather Repair, Sontag and Jopson both agree that customers should not see much of a difference. Both noted there will probably be improvements but the store will go on, as is, with the same group of skilled craftspeople. 

Sontag’s last day as the owner will be December 31, 2020, and he offered this as a final word. “I want to give a huge thank you to all of our loyal customers over the years. We couldn’t have done it without great support from the community, the business community, and everyone who lives here and who has done business with us. Many of them make the conscious choice to support local businesses. All of us here owe a huge debt of gratitude to them, and I think Xenia Shoe and Leather will be a part of downtime Xenia for a long time to come.”

Editor’s Note

TIm Sontag with long-time customer and Jamestown Comet editor, Gery Deer. December 2020.

I first met Tim Sontag in 1989, when I was working on some specialized leather equipment designs and needed a highly-skilled craftsperson to build it. His skill, insight, and friendship over the years have touched so many people and so many parts of my world – including my father. Several years ago, Tim helped me find a special shoe my father could put on by himself given his Parkinson’s limitations.

I’ve also worked with pretty much every one of the talented people in the shop over the years. Each and every time, they’ve come through for me, in one way or another. Tim hasn’t just built a store, he’s created a legacy. He’s leaving his shop in good hands and a nearly four-decade legacy of craftsmanship and community service.

The entire Deer family and our friends and associates want to personally thank Tim for all of his years of great work and friendship. Good luck, sir, and congratulations.

Gery L. Deer, Editor / Founder