Mark Meschinelli is an Alchemist. But instead of trying to turn rock into gold or concoct the fabled elixir of life, he spends his time practicing the sorcery of reviving old climbing shoes.
As the owner of the Plattsburgh Shoe Hospital, Mark is the guy responsible for resoling your beat-up climbing shoes, many of which arrive pretty tattered. When his work is done, a shoe that most people would toss away ends up back in some- one’s pack and at the crag climbing again.
The inside of his shop is relatively unassuming—there aren’t any flashes of lightning, no crazy solutions boiling on the shelves and no Igor shuffling around. Instead, the shop looks as if it hasn’t changed since the day it opened: antique tools hang on the walls, old forgotten shoes line the racks and an antique register with hand written notes on the keys occupies the majority of the counter space. “It’s been here as along as I’ve been around,” Mark says. “And it’s probably been here since my grandfather opened the place in 1936.”
Grabbing a pair of climbing shoes from a rack behind the counter, Mark heads into his laboratory. One of the shoes has the typical hole in the big toe area. “This one will need a toe cap,” he says standing in front of the sanding wheel that will grind away the sole of the shoes. He grabs a roll of sandpaper and fits it to the wheel that resembles a bench grinder. “I like to keep my paper sharp,” he says. “It cuts down on the heat from the friction and won’t damage the rand.”
Without hesitating, he flips the machine’s switch and carefully puts the sole of the shoe to the sandpaper. Within seconds the rubber sole becomes a pile of chips. I ask Mark if he can reuse the rubber. “I have heated it up and turned it into a ball before,” Mark replies as he continues his work on the shoe. “You can’t really do much with it, though.”
He works the shoe for about fifteen minutes before tracing the area where he needs to cut, heat and strip the rubber away. The process for resoling and recapping a climbing shoe, Mark says, takes roughly 48 hours. Most of that time is spent waiting for the glue to dry.
Mark grabs a thick pad of rubber from the shelf in the front room and cuts a small piece from it that will go over the shoe’s toe. “So, how do you get that piece of rubber on the shoe? Melt it?” I ask. “No, no,” he laughs. “First I have to put the toe patch on and let that sit overnight. I’ll then trace out the sole, rough it up and put a bit of glue on it.”
He turns to me pointing at the bottom of the shoe and says, “From there I’ll put it in the press and crush it down, making sure there is a good bond all around it. The shoe sits overnight and ships the next day.”
Almost on que, the mailman walks through the door with a package under his arm. “More climbing shoes,” Mark says before greeting the carrier by his first name.
It takes 24 hours to resole one pair of shoes at $37. It takes 48 hours to resole and cap a shoe with a worn out toe at $47 ($10 extra per toe cap per shoe). So when Mark does the math, his margin isn’t very high for a specialized handcrafted resole. It’s a labor of love.
For the most part, Mark works pretty quickly if he isn’t out climbing. “Closed two weeks out of the year,” his website reads. “Gone climbing!”
Mark is a small guy with toned biceps that look like they could crush my head with a flex. His hands are as thick as the leather on the shoes he repairs. He’s the real deal.
Born and raised in Plattsburgh, you’ll likely find him in his Adirondack playground when he has free time. During the 70’s, he played a big role in developing routes at Poke-o-Moonshine and was a part of 50 plus first ascents in the area—C-tips (5.10c) and Son of Slime (5.10a) to name a couple classics.
“I never worked full time,” smiles Mark. “My father would always give me grief. He would say, ‘What is climbing going
to do for you?’ and ‘How is climbing going to support you?’ It’s funny because if it weren’t for resoling climbing shoes we would be out of business. Climbing saved our shop.”
The shop has been at the same downtown City Hall Place loca- tion since it opened in 1934. In fact, many of the tools Mark uses at the Shoe Hospital today are the same tools his grandfather used when he opened the doors.
If you’re thinking about getting your shoes resoled, get in touch with Mark at the Plattsburgh Shoe Hospital. And if you want your shoes to last longer next time, Mark says, “Get better at your footwork and if you notice your shoes are getting worn out, send them in sooner than later. It’s easier for me to fix them and it is cheaper for you.”
Contact Mark at www.plattsburghshoehospital.com or (518) 561-2580