Peg Larabell started making the stuff more than 30 years ago. Looking for something that would waterproof her shoes and boots - and frustrated by her inability to find a product she liked - she noticed a simple recipe in some old leather-workers' guide to waterproofing. The ingredients: neatsfoot oil and beeswax. Then a beekeeper with a ready supply of beeswax, she decided to give it a try.
Tweaking the proportions until she was satisfied, she made a hobby of cooking up her own waterproofing cream. Since opening Eastside Shoe Repair in May 2006, that hobby has grown into a side business. She christened her concoction Eastside Shoe Paste. At $7 per 3.5-ounce tin, she notes, "I can hardly keep it in stock." She cooks it up in an old electric teakettle, filling 20 tins at a time. "I make up a batch and it's out of here."
A certified pedorthist, Larabell brings expertise in foot anatomy and biomechanics to fixing footwear. "We did the shoes for the Johnny Depp movie," she notes - resoling and refurbishing shoes appropriate to the Public Enemies era.
With the economy down, Larabell says, business is up at Eastside Shoe Repair, and so are sales of Eastside Shoe Paste as people try to get the most out of their clodhoppers. Buying new footwear might cost twice as much as repairing what you've already got, she points out. Not that there's anything wrong with new shoes: Every pair sold retail has the potential to walk through the door at Eastside Shoe Repair in search of restoration - or protection from water, grit and grime.
Larabell now buys her beeswax, which helps keep the leather supple and repels water, from Gentle Breeze Honey in Mount Horeb. The neatsfoot oil - a leather conditioner and preservative - comes in big buckets from Fiebing's Horse & Leather Care Products in Milwaukee.
Applied with fingers or a soft cloth, the creamy concoction is worked into seams and leather surfaces alike. The product needs at least 30 minutes to penetrate before any excess is removed.
When you notice water starting to soak in and leave a dark mark instead of bead up on the surface, Larabell says, it's time for a recoat.
Eastside Shoe Repair
1937 Winnebago St., 608-442-7463