From Karpathos to Canberra: The story of a Greek Australian cobbler

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The skills of a true cobbler are sewn in from a young age. The early-mid 1900’s saw many Greeks become masters of the trade, many of whom then brought their shoe repair skills to Australia to make a living as a traditional cobbler.

Miltiadis Vassiliotis learned the basics of shoe repairs from his father at a very young age and since then has used his skills to transform and adapt ‘Civic Shoes’ into a business with an elongated future.

Hailing from Karpathos, a small Greek island in the Dodecanese, Vassiliotis’ father came to Australia in 1956 and worked as a cobbler from that time. He then opened his own business in 1973, which was passed on to become Miltiadis’ shoe repair store.

Maintaining the shops “traditional” ethics as a shoe repair store, the Greek Australian hasn’t been shy to expand and deliver new products to his loyal customers.

Miltiadis Vassiliotis learned the basics of shoe repairs from his father at a very young age. Photo: Supplied

“Three years ago I started designing the custom made shoes and custom made inner soles,” Vassiliotis says to The Greek Herald.

“We’re doing something different than everyone else around.

“We’re the first to bring the 3D scanner, which measures 52 different measurements on your feet, in Australia. Through these measurements we build up the shoes.”

The custom made shoes, as Vassiliotis explains, are not made in Canberra, but instead the feet dimensions are transferred to factories overseas. The factory employees can then read the transmitted data, build the shoes, and ship them directly back to Canberra.

While bringing a new product option to his customers, Vassiliotis has made sure to stay true to his roots as a hard working cobbler.

“We’ve kept the shoe repairs as traditional as it was before. So we haven’t change anything,” Vassiliotis says.

While bringing a new product option to his customers, Vassiliotis has made sure to stay true to his roots as a hard working cobbler. Photo: Supplied

The first COVID-19 wave hit businesses across Australia with a fiery fist, with Vassiliotis’ being no exception. Vassiliotis was forced to close his shop for a week after Canberra was sent into lockdown.

“It slowly began to pick up,” Vassiliotis says.

“Going well now so I can’t complain. We will worry about the second outbreak if it comes.”

The expert quality provided by Civic Shoes has not gone unnoticed by some of Australia’s biggest stars, with Vassiliotis saying that many “politicians, actors and football players” regularly come into his store for his services.

Being based in Canberra, Vassiliotis’ reveals that his skills have also attracted the likes of Rugby Union side ‘Canberra Brumbies’ and NRL’s ‘Canberra Raiders’.

“I’ve already started talking with the Canberra Brumbies and Canberra Raiders and I’m just waiting for some samples and when I have the samples I’ll start going to the trainings and do some foot measuring. Then I can design some custom made boots.

“All the rugby players have big feet and they can’t find a proper fitting football boot. So my next step is to help them.”

The owner of Civic Shoes also expressed the importance of designing custom inner soles for people who suffer from chronic foot problems and health issues.

“For people who have plantar fasciitis and foot problems, I have a special device that can make a custom pair of inner soles in 10 minutes.”

An artist of the trade, Vassiliotis skills are appreciated by many locals in the Canberra community. Asked if his children would follow on in his legacy as a cobbler, Vassiliotis didn’t feel pressured to pass on his love for shoe repairs to his two children.

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