Behind a nondescript storefront at 84 Charles St., Ares Shoe Repair has faithfully served the neighborhood for around the past three-quarters of a century. Ares, besides offering the shoe repair services that earned the business Boston Magazine’s 2017 Best of Boston Award in the Best Shoe Repair category, also repairs pocketbooks, duplicates keys on site, and sells shoe-shining supplies and orthopedic arch-support inserts, among other items.
“We try to do a little bit of everything,” said Armen Ketsoian, who has owned and operated Ares for about the past seven years. Ares’ original owner, for whom the store was named, operated the store for about the first 30 years of its existence, and when he retired, Ketsoian’s father in law took over. Ketsoian worked for Ares for about one year and filled in sporadically thereafter during his father-in-law’s 35-year ownership, but in the meantime, he had his own shoe repair business, which, said Ketsoian, operated for more than a decade in Government Center until a new landlord took over the building and pushed him and several other longstanding tenants out. (Like his father in law, Ketsoian hails from Armenia, a country with a rich history of making custom shoes, and like many of his compatriots, Ketsoian found work repairing shoes upon arriving in the U.S. due to the high cost of manufacturing custom shoes here.) Ares’ hours of operation are currently 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays (which is a significant reduction from pre-covid times when the store operated 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays).
Ketsoian said he hopes to expand the current hours as demand grows, but business has been slow since Ares reopened last August after being closed for five months due to the pandemic. While Ketsoian remains optimistic that his and other businesses on Charles Street will see increased revenues as more people return to work downtown, he added cautiously, “Nothing is guaranteed.” Meantime, Ares has been able to stay afloat during the pandemic, thanks largely to Ketsoian’s landlord, “Mr. Clark,” who gave him a break on rent, as well as to some federal stimulus aid that the business received. But now, Ketsoian is depending on the Beacon Hill community to help keep Ares in business. “We’re just surviving,” said Ketsoian. “If it keeps up like this, I’m going to have shut down the store.” For more information, call Ares Shoe Repair at 617-720-1583.