Rocky Mountain Humans – Kumpfy Shoes and Repair


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Karel Kumpfmuller’s childhood nickname was Kumpfy. He and his girlfriend Wendy Walker realized it was the perfect name for a shoe store.

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The couple share ownership of Kumpfy Shoes and Repair in Canmore. Karel is the store’s cobbler.
“We started out resoling and selling climbing shoes, but found out pretty quickly that all types of things needed to be repaired here in the Bow Valley,” Walker said. “We now repair clothes, bags, dog harnesses, barbecue covers and cross-country ski boots. And all types of zippers. We just tell people to bring their gear before they throw it away and we’ll see if we can fix it first.

They also sell new climbing shoes, hiking boots, Redbacks, Red Wing work boots, Birkenstocks, shoelaces and shoe care products. And they just brought Grivel ice climbing gear to their new location at 117a 306 Bow Valley Trail in Moose Meadows. They are open Monday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
“I started resoling climbing shoes in a shed at the back of our house in 2000,” Kumpfmuller said. “When people started coming more often and asking if I could fix their hiking boots, it got me thinking about becoming a cobbler.”

There is no shoemaking school in Canada, he says.

“Most cobblers learn their craft from their families, as the skills are passed down from generation to generation,” Kumpfmuller said. “So I opened the Yellow Pages and started visiting shoemakers in Calgary in the hope that they would agree to hire me as an intern.”

He ended up at Woodbine Shoe Repair and he met the owner and his wife.
“They had just sold their business and we bought it on the spot,” Walker said. “Our friends and family thought we were crazy, but that was right.”

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They officially opened on April 1, 2016.

Prior to launching Kumpfy Shoes, Walker worked for non-profit athletic associations. Kumpfmuller worked for Canada Post, delivering mail to Canmore. He was born and raised in Calgary and used to ski race. So he spent a lot of time in Canmore. His mother and father immigrated from the Czech Republic.
Walker was also born and raised in Calgary.

“My mom went to first grade here while my grandfather worked in the mine when they came from Ukraine,” Walker said. “My father immigrated from Scotland. His name was Johnny Walker.

Kumpfmuller found mentors to guide him through the intricacies of DIY.

“Alberto Mazzuchi, the father of a good friend, taught me how to resole climbing shoes here in Canmore,” said Kumpfmuller. “George, from Woodbine, was my mentor for the basics of shoemaking.”

Walker learned to sew in high school and wanted to further his sewing skills.

“We didn’t want to start a repair business,” Walker said. “It kind of happened in the most organic way. Like it was meant to be.

“We get a lot of repeat repairs, but sometimes things come up that we’ve never seen before,” Kumpfmuller said. “So there’s what we call ‘McGyvering’ in our shop.”

It can repair just about any type of shoe or boot, he said.

“After resoling 5,000 pairs of climbing shoes, it became second nature. Eijiro, one of our cobblers, has a keen eye for detail. I love seeing his final product on fancy shoes,” Kumpfmuller said. “But there was definitely a learning curve. Some of the machines we have are still hard to master, so there can be a lot of swearing in the back.

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Leather can be difficult to work with.

“You have to be careful with the big sander because you can get in trouble pretty quickly with this machine. We go through a lot of band-aids,” Kumpfmuller said.

Walker accepts.

“Glues are also quite toxic, so guys will be wearing respirators,” Walker said.

People are happy to have their things repaired, she added.

“Strangely, people can really get attached to their shoes and boots,” Walker said. “It was their first pair of climbing shoes or the shoes took them hiking in Nepal or the shoes were bought by their late father. It’s pretty cool to hear the different stories.

They also fix the zippers.

“On jackets, handbags and boots,” Walker said. “It’s amazing the number of zippers. We now have a seamstress on site and she can hem pants, tuck in dresses, sew curtains and cushion covers. We will try anything once.

They also see all types of people of all ages.

“We see national team athletes in need of repaired bags and equipment,” Walker said. “Weddings that need to shine their shoes. Every day people who just need one more season for their jacket, shoes, etc.

One difficult repair was an old leather ax cover that had tons of sentimental value,” Walker said. The leather was torn and had started to fall apart. So I just matched the holes with wire that I had aged to blend in and put the ax lid in a shadow box for the customer. It was pretty cool.

The couple had a border collie named Sunshine who was with them at the store every day at first.

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“We miss her terribly,” Walker said. “His image is on our business cards and our logo. Sunshine’s paw print was supposed to be in our logo. Fraser McGurk waved over the counter. Sunshine also had to be there. We also have a cat named Luke Skywalker and he’s pretty cool.

Something Canmore needs is a Kentucky Fried Chicken, Kumpfmuller said. And Walker added that the city needs more parking spaces. As for their business, it is growing, she says.

“We are working with our staff to make the shop more efficient so we can take on larger repair contracts,” Walker said. “A lot of businesses have to come to Calgary to get things fixed, so hopefully we can save them gas and mileage and also help them be more efficient.”
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