She wrote about a family-owned, Jacksonville shoe repair business in operation for over 100 years. She said the family elder overseeing the business was a bit of a character—a former fisherman who was an inveterate storyteller. Kim finished up her message by stating that she thought the story of the business was interesting, but would give no guarantees as to what this free-spirited owner might say in an interview.
The idea of a century-old business intrigued my reporter’s curiosity and I was enticed by Kim’s suggestion of a potential interview challenge presented by the business owner. And so began my introduction into the world of Greg Vaccaro.
In setting up our interview, Greg and I spoke twice on the telephone. Each time the shoe maker was friendly and exhibited a good sense of humor—characteristics I knew bode well for our 64 and More adventure. Finally, we agreed on a date and time with a twist on our interview location.
Traditionally, 64 and More interviews are conducted in quiet out-of-the-way places defined by good light and accommodating acoustics. However, Greg made it clear that his work schedule would preclude interviewing anywhere but at his store. With a take it or leave it option, I took it and hoped for the best.
On the appointed day, I arrived at Greg’s Gus and Company Shoe and Luggage Repair, set in the heart of Jacksonville’s business district. Walking into the brightly-lit shop, my senses were assailed by the sights and sounds of customers, a jingling cash register, a busy shoe shine station and repair machines of varying sizes, all loud in operation.
Filming in this setting would have been a veteran videographer’s challenge. From my rookie perspective, it was a nightmare.
As I managed to wrangle Greg away from the million and one details of his busy workday, we began a search for a reasonable interview location. Moving him as far away from the various repair machines as I could, we finally settled at the front service counter, alongside the cash register—-basically command central for the entire store.
Finally under a yellowish florescent light, beside a dinging cash register and amid a typical Gus and Company work day, I focused the camera tightly on Greg’s face, raised his microphone level as high as I dared and hit the film button.
For the ensuing hour Greg spun stories–of his life, his work, his family and of Gus and Company. Customers came and went, Greg’s son, Lee, rang up sales and took in repairs, the staff made trails around us carrying on in their daily shoe repair tasks.
In the end, all of it made for an imperfectly perfect backdrop for this 64 and More story which turned out exactly as my friend Kim promised—-interesting— as much for the history of a 100-year old family-owned business as for its free-spirited owner and his story-telling ways.
To view other parts in this 64 and More series click below.
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