Frank Ripley has been knockin' on all kinds of boots throughout the Peace and beyond for more than 50 years.
He's the only cobbler from here to Alaska. In the 70s, Ripley attended 10 months of cobbler school in Vancouver before setting up Rip’s Shoe Re-Nu and Cleats in Dawson Creek. His first cleat clients were Mile Zero seniors, using his patented designs.
“We’ve had some very good years over the years, we’ve done very well. Other companies will come up with different products or copies, and they get made in China,” said Ripley.
“A lot of people don’t realize how big we are, we ship to the U.S., Russia. This operation has great people, there’s value in it and it keeps them busy.”
Today, the business has worldwide reach, with cleats even being used by an exploration team in Antarctica, says assistant manager Kauri Taylor-Cook, adding there may be an opportunity through the Co-op to get their goods to the North Pole as well.
Taylor-Cook says five people currently staff their cleat warehouse — seniors, retirees, and part-time workers mastering the craft in a family-like atmosphere. She started as a builder herself, learning the craft inside and out for nine years, before taking a managerial role.
“We really pride ourselves in quality and accuracy, we always have every order double checked by two people, plus its weight. We want to make sure that absolutely every order is correct before it goes out,” said Taylor-Cook.
“They’re amazing people. It’s not on a machine, it’s not done automatically. Every single pair is checked by hand.”
Ripley's been recognized for more than just his skill with shoes, and was named Rotarian of the Year in 2016. He continues to spread the wealth, donating generously to the senior's hall earlier this year.
Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative, Alaska Highway News