The small leather clad showroom and quaint surroundings may paint a picture of small town business, but Kokos Shoes and Repairs is now known the world over — and for good reason.
Situated in London's sought-after borough of East Finchley, Kokos has earned itself a reputation for maintaining the highest standard of shoe repair found anywhere in the world. A quality which is also prioritised in its own-brand shoes and leather goods.
This reputation was hard earned by the shop’s owners Maria and George Stavrou, who have run Kokos from the same address since 1978. The shop’s shoe making heritage is almost as long running as the family’s.
Located on High Road, the shop was known as “The East Finchley Boot and Shoe Repairing Company” 50 years before a young couple with shoemaking in their blood bought it and made it Kokos.
At the age of just 18, George — which is Kokos in Greek — was already a master at shoe repairs, having been taught by his father. When Maria and George made the shop their own, they began to put their own stamp on the local shoe industry.
“George improved certain shoe repairing techniques and became one of the best. We also started selling shoes, bags and other things,” Maria recalled.
“At the time there weren’t that many independent shoe stores selling their own brands, especially selling Italian and French styles like us.”
Kokos began to earn its reputation among the local community as being one of the finest shoe repair shops in London.
“Quality is of top importance to us in both the repairs and with our own shoes," said Christopher Stavrou, who helps run the business with his parents.
"We’ve always made sure to get the highest quality materials. We find the factories that provide the same attention to detail we do."
Their reputation for reliability and quality earned them a loyal customer base. Many of whom still remain loyal customers 40 years after Kokos was established.
“We still have people come in to get their shoes repaired who have been coming here for 40 years, some of their sons come in,” Christopher said.
However, it was their innovation which caused the business to grow.
“There was nothing else locally that was selling anything this niche. No one was selling anything a bit different,” Maria said.
This innovation has continued throughout Kokos' illustrious history. The advent of new companies, new shoe materials and new technologies have forced the family business to adapt.
“A lot of the shoes that we see come in are now factory built and fashion based," Christopher explained.
"There is more variation now, we take it all on regardless. You have to. We have definitely adapted.
“We’ve had people email us from abroad, that’s new for us, it has only really happened in the last few years. I guess social media is the new word of mouth, people hear about us through that.
“It’s something we want to expand on even more, it reaches people a lot further than we have ever done before.
“The internet is obviously very important now, that’s something we’re using to our benefit. We do get repairs from all over the world. People have seen us on the web and choose to have their shoes repaired here. Our aim is to expand and still offer the same quality repairs.”
While the ability to innovate and adapt with the times is a key ingredient to Kokos' success, to the family that runs it — what's more important is their legacy.
“If we have a legacy it will be the people we have trained over the years. You could call it a college of shoe repairs,” Maria said.
Almost all of the staff who work in-house at shoe repairs came to Kokos as apprentices no older than 16, and were since taught "the Kokos way”. All of those who were taken on are now master craftsmen in their 30s and owe their unique skills to the Stavrou family.
Kokos has indeed come a long way in 40 years, but the Stavrou family show no sign of slowing down.
“We’re looking to improve all the time, 40 years doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels," Maria said.
"We’ve had to adapt to keep going and we’ve had to adapt to get stronger.”
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