HELENA — It seems that everything is available on-demand and at the touch of a finger. Especially now, during the pandemic, where almost anything can be ordered online at the touch of a button. Something breaks, many people throw it away and buy a new one. However, that’s not the case at Ryan’s Boot & Shoe Repair in Helena.
“You can buy a pair of my boots and they’ll last, I’ve had boots in here that are 25 years old," said owner Michael Ryan. "You buy a cheap pair of boots you’re not going to have them 25 years. You're probably not going to have them for a year.”
Ryan started working his craft in Helena in 1986 after years of studying the craft with boot-makers across Montana. Even now, through the pandemic, customers are still coming in because they value quality.
“Some people wear good boots and they want them fixed, they don’t want to throw them away and they pay $600-$700 for a good pair of boots, they don’t want to throw them away,” added Ryan.
Sometimes you can save yourself a little money by not one-click purchasing a new pair of boots from your couch. “There’s people doing that because they don’t have the money to go buy new footwear," said Ryan." So they are trying to get by with what they have. So I think that’s what keeps us going.”
Michael is the only boot and shoe repair left in Helena and he told me once he’s done he can’t imagine anyone taking his business over. And as he keeps fixing our footwear and doing custom builds, there is a focus on quality, not quantity.
“It’s too bad we have to throw so much stuff away," customer Flanery Herbert told MTN. "It’s nice to have some real craftsmanship.”
Getting something repaired instead of tossing it away also adds up. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates the amount of clothing and footwear that ends up landfills each year, and that amount has nearly doubled over the past 20 years. In 2000, the EPA estimated around 4.5 million tons of footwear and clothing were thrown away. Fast forward to 2018, that number had risen to nine million tons. Meanwhile, the amount recycled has risen from just about a million tons to 1.7 million tons.
So repairing your footwear does more than save you money and support a small business. It also keeps rubber, leather, and cloth out of the dump.
Ryan's Shoe Repair is open Monday-Friday 8:30 AM - 5:30 PM and located at 919 Euclid Avenue in Helena. You can call them at 406-442-5215.