A J Crawford Celebrates 55 Years in the Community

Community News, Kim's Kronicles — By on May 6, 2017 at 3:25 am
A J Crawford. Cover and Inside Photos by Kim Webster.

A J Crawford. Cover and Inside Photos by Kim Webster.

By Kim Webster

“When I first came to Los Angeles, I realized you have to have some type of skill or some type of profession,” said A J Crawford who opened A and J Shoe Service Center in 1962.   He attended a trade school for shoe repair in Louisiana and applied at a shoe repair shop when he came to Los Angeles.   “It was just so perfect for me.  I came and started working as a trainee at the shoe repair shop.  Eventually the owner retired and I was fortunate enough to have a little more experience and took over the shop.  I’ve been so blessed.  We have wonderful customers who have been very supportive to us,” said A J.  He and his wife Gladys (who recently passed away) ran the shop together for many years.   Ernest Holmes, who came by to pick up his shoes, heard about the shoe shop from a friend and commented, ‘I’m a new customer; prices are reasonable and the work is good quality.”  The shop also repairs luggage, handbags, leather and suede clothing and offers orthopedic services.   “There are very few shoe repair shops and only a tad of Black shoe repair shops.   We’ve been very fortunate, the neighborhood has changed in the past few years but we have customers who have stayed with us,” said A J.  There are customers who “grew up” with AJ and their children and grandchildren are now customers.

A and J Shoe Service Center

A and J Shoe Service Center.Photo by Kim Webster.

When you walk into the shop, it’s like experiencing a wonderful stroll back in time.   Unique gift items, all types of vintage magazines, albums, cassettes, 8 tracks, movies, dolls, luggage, give you a feeling of nostalgia. I asked A J how he acquired all these unique items.  He smiled and said, “That’s a very unique question.”  He explained how at one time he had a concession stand for his daughter and she sold ice cream and slushes.  His other daughter sold cosmetics and wigs.  “This was a while back when they didn’t have many stores [like that] in the area.”  Over time the shop stocked other items; adding to the inventory.   A J and his wife have two daughters and a son.  Having the children involved in the shop kept them “interested and kept them busy too, it made them independent and self sufficient.”   “We have three great kids that I never had any trouble from.  I’m thinking it’s based back to us working as a family together.”

Historical Presbyterian Church. Photo by Kim Webster

Historical Presbyterian Church. Photo by Kim Webster

You can’t help but notice the historical, beautiful old church across the street from the shoe shop. He explained that it was a Presbyterian church.  “It’s heartbreaking to watch it.  When we first came to the neighborhood it had many White parishioners but when the neighborhood changed they left the church to the community and it was our responsibility to keep it up.”   The building became a teen post for a while until the City said the building, which is over 200 years old, had to be restructured to be in compliance with codes regarding earthquake resistance.   “I’ve heard they haven’t done much by saving it.   It seems it has been left deserted and we’re concerned.   Some of the older people like myself who have been here a while think that we should work together to try to preserve it.   We want to declare it as a historical landmark.”

A J owns the building that houses his shop and had this advice for young people, “I sure would like to be supportive of our young people.   I think our young people today just don’t seem to be going in the right direction as far as being self employed.  Sometime it is easy to find a job, but it’s nice to venture out on your own and have your own business.   Don’t give up if you have special ideas, something that you would like to do. Pursue it, just go on and work at it.  When you’re self employed you have to go the extra mile.   You have to be motivated to go on a little further.  Don’t give up your dream, you can do it, it’s a struggle but well worth the sacrifice.” A and J Shoe Service Center is located at 5313 So Vermont Ave in Los Angeles (323) 750-2816 and celebrates 55 years in the community this year.  Stop in, enjoy a free cup of coffee and the hospitality of Mr. A J Crawford.

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