CULLMAN, Ala. – Stepping through the door at Hinkle Shoe Shop is like crossing the threshold into a bygone era, a simpler and kinder time when life was easy, excellent service was the norm and laughter was quick to come.
Owner David Hinkle reflects, “I bought the shop in 1973 on January 17. It will be 50 years this next January. It was originally located at 112 3rd Street SW near to what was then Leeth Bank and by Penn Hamburgers. I stayed there until the end of December in 1974 and moved here at 121 4th Street SW then. I’ve been here ever since.”
Specializing in shoe, boot and purse repairs, the shop also offers dying and second-to-none shoeshines. Dedicated customers travel from several counties away due to Hinkle’s excellent work and impeccable reputation.
The humble 78-year-old doesn’t see anything special about his skill; rather, he marks it up to the work ethic of doing your job to the best of your ability.
He shares, “Gosh, it’s no real big deal, I guess. I’ve always pretty much worked by myself. I had others working here and there but it just works better this way. We’ve had a lot of ups and downs, but business has been great over the years, and it still is.”
In addition to the repair side of the business, Hinkle Shoe Shop is a gathering place for friends to share a tall tale, a tried-and-true joke or just sit a spell. His friends often describe the shop as reminiscent of Floyd’s Barber Shop on “The Andy Griffith Show.”
Born in Cullman County, Hinkle never had a desire to live anywhere else than his cherished hometown.
“I was born and raised in Cullman. I was in the military for two years but, other than that, I’ve been here all my life. We moved around a lot when I was young. We were in Good Hope and White City and all over.
“I went to school at White City after starting out at Bolte then went to Good Hope. I went maybe one year at Cullman High School. I finished the 11th grade and I reckon I thought I was a brain surgeon, and I never went back. Now, that’s rocket scientist material, isn’t it,” he chuckles.
After his semi-feral years as a young man with unsuccessful relationships which he admits “would have worked out fine if the ladies would have had something to work with,” Hinkle can now report that his wife of nearly 50 years says she’s happy to see him when he gets home every day.
The couple appreciate their simple life still using wood in the winter months to provide warmth and usually growing much of their food in the summers.
“We heat with firewood and I’m so thankful that I’m still able to do that. Ordinarily, we have a garden. This is the first year we haven’t had a vegetable garden. We let is pass this year because of our health problems during planting time. We’re fortunate that we’ve got a great family. We all work together but I think they just tolerate me more or less,” he tells with a smile.
Looking forward, Hinkle says he is beginning to think of retiring but he isn’t quite sure just yet. What he does know for certain is “We really don’t know from one day to the next what’s going to happen. I try to live one day at a time anyway. That’s really all we’ve got.”
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