As an orthopedic physical therapist, David Curtis knows all about taking care of feet.
And as a longtime local resident, he knows that the best person to care for his own shoes is George Ouzounidis.
In his 40 years as owner of Westfair Shoe Repair opposite Stop & Shop, he’s developed a loyal clientele. They appreciate and admire his great work, attention to detail — and all the little things that make his small store such a warm, welcoming place.
“There’s always a smile on his face. He’s happy-go-lucky and jovial,” Curtis says. “If you’re having a bad day, by the time you leave you’re in a good mood.”
But George is also a dedicated, hardworking craftsman. He works on more than shoes. Boots, belts, all things leather; thick nylon, like collars and leashes — he fixes them all.
During his long career, George has worked on damaged or worn Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo, Chanel and Ferragamo items, worth thousands of dollars.
He’s spent as much time and care on items that are valuable only to customers, like a deceased dog’s collar or leash.
He works too on things that no one at all might care about, like stuff found in a trunk in a grandparent’s attic.
Whether it’s soccer shoes worn in a state championship match ro Army boots worn on the beaches of Normandy — George makes it look, feel and work like new.
With soft Greek music playing in the background, George’s go-to greeting is “my friend.”
“Whenever I walk in, the first thing I hear is ‘My friend, how have you been?'” Curtis notes.
“Whenever I leave, it’s ‘My friend. I will do the best I can. My friend, when do you need this?'”
And, Curtis adds, “He under-charges and over-delivers. He’s so honest.”
The other day, Curtis forgot his wallet. George — who accepts cash or checks only — said, “No worries, my friend. Pay me next time.’
“George is a town icon. A legend. A treasure. A dying breed,” praises Curtis. “He is vintage Westport.”
(I’m amazed George has never been nominated as an Unsung Hero before. Then again, his quiet concern, care and competence are the essence of what an Unsung Hero is.)
(To nominate an Unsung Hero, email firstname.lastname@example.org. To help support “06880” with a financial contribution, click here.)