Shoes can be made a size bigger or smaller, linings can be replaced and bags can be dyed different colors. A woman whose house was flooded during Hurricane Sandy brought her one-of-a-kind shoes (Lady Gaga has the only other pair) to be repaired after facing extensive water damage.
A grandson found his grandfather’s leather firefighter helmet in a basement and employees were able to make it look new again. An old leather stuffed bear, stained leather chair and Christian Louboutin leather snakeskin shoe that was burnt down the side were all repaired at this Long Island City facility.
The Leather Spa also has contracts with almost every big name designer. From Manolo Blahnik to Fendi, Jimmy Choo, Christian Louboutin, Balenciaga, Chanel and Alexander Wang, Leather Spa is trusted to do quality work. But Mesquita does not like to show off and relies mostly on word of mouth to attract business.
“I think that’s why people come to us for so long because we use discretion; we’re low key,” said Kate Mesquita, who handles marketing for the company. “It’s not really about us; it’s about the product. Everything is word of mouth.”
In addition to the repair work they do for major companies, Leather Spa has a mail-in business where people can mail their items to the facility and a pick-up business, where people can go to the facility and get their shoes fitted if they want to change the size or have a heel or strap repaired. Leather Spa also handles repairs for Chanel stores throughout the United States.
Leather Spa, located at 22-19 41st Ave., is a 10,000-square-foot repair facility where employees polish, shrink, enlarge, dye and repair leather products from handbags to shoes to chairs. It’s been in the neighborhood for eight years.
David Mesquita, who runs the company, learned the trade from his father, Carlos, who owned 13 shoe repair shops in France, and the majority of his customers were women; they were the ones who would bring in their own shoes and bags, as well as their husbands’ items, for repair.
After visiting the United States, Carlos realized that American shoe repair stores catered more to men, and he saw the opportunity to create more of a woman-friendly business. In 1983, Carlos opened his first location in America, working out of a basement and first-floor apartment in Manhattan.
Mesquita grew up in the family business, working at his father’s shops during the weekends. After finishing college he worked at other shoe companies but decided working in the family business is what made him the happiest.
“You just fall into it,” he said. “When you’re a little kid there was really no allowance or anything like that. If you wanted something you had to work for it.”
Throughout the years, Leather Spa has created a computer system to track customers’ orders and more; this system is now used by other cobblers across the country. Leather Spa even has its own line of leather care products like a water and stain protector, leather shampoo and conditioner, a shine brush, insoles, laces and boot shapers.
“It’s changed a lot, the business,” he said. “We’re always trying to come up with ideas to grow the business or grow the industry.”
Three years ago, Leather Spa moved to its current facility, where 56 employees can handle even the most complicated orders. The facility set up like a maze, with employees working in stations to patch items, dye them, stretch them or polish and clean the leather.
Much of the company’s materials come from Europe – places like France, Italy, Portugal and Spain. Mesquita said the quality and variety of products are better and wider in these countries and because many designer products also use material from those countries, it makes more sense for him to do so as well.
Mesquita has been approached by realtors and developers who want a Leather Spa location in their buildings but it’s difficult for the work to be replicated.
“There’s no manual, no handbook,” he said. “It’s not that simple. Shoes, leather products are changing every season.”
“It’s a quality control issue,” Kate Mesquita added. “It’s very hard to replicate and scale.”
Leather Spa is looking to serve the Long Island City community soon by letting locals drop off and pick up their items in western Queens rather than traveling to the storefront in Manhattan. A pick-up repair service will open by the end of 2017 or early 2018, and customers will be able to drop off their products at the facility at 22-19 41st Ave.
David and Kate Mesquita have lived in Long Island City for about seven years and with a newly signed 12-year lease for their facility, they won’t be going away anytime soon.
“We love Long Island City,” Kate Mesquita said. “We love working here. We love living here. We love the community.”