A business that has been a part of Novato’s downtown for three generations is closing.
Ernie and Charlene Zunino, who own Zunino’s Shoe Repair at 904 Grant Avenue, have announced they are retiring, effective September 15.
The shop has been in the Zunino family since Ernie’s grandfather, Angelo, opened it in 1910.
Ernie Zunino was not at the store on Thursday, but Charlene Zunino, who’s worked at the business for the past 35 years, said the couple was looking forward to the next chapter of their lives.
“Nobody believes us when we tell them, but it’s true,” she said. “My husband is 70 years old…Everybody gets to retire and we don’t? It’s time.”
Zunino’s has repaired plenty of shoes over the past century, but it also fixed bags, dolls, dog beds, horse tack and just about everything else. It wasn’t always easy, but business had picked up in recent years, largely because of the recession, said Charlene.
“People went into their closet and dug up old shoes and brought them in,” she said, looking up from an Adler sewing machine and wiping sweat from her brow. “And they realized they could do that with other things.”
Don Erba was one of the many customers stunned to see the Zuninos’ sign on the front counter announcing the closure. His family has known the Zuninos for years, part of the same tight-knit community of Italian-American families in the area.
“It’s a big shock,” Erba said, as he clutched a bag and a slipper he had brought in for repair. “I knew it was gonna close up shop one day, but I just didn’t expect it this soon.”