D181204 shoe repair

Shoe and leather repair shop owner Jim Blackburn, 82, talks with Decatur police officer Daniel Clemons, left, at his Fourth Avenue Southeast shop Monday. Blackburn said engraving and lawn care equipment were taken from his storage garage on Cleveland Avenue Southwest. [DAN BUSEY/DECATUR DAILY]

In his 82 years of life, Jim Blackburn has seen just about everything. That didn't make it any easier Sunday afternoon when he discovered valuable equipment had been stolen from him again.

The owner and operator of Jim’s Shoe and Leather Repair at 209 Fourth Ave. S.E., Blackburn said engraving and lawn care equipment were taken from his storage garage on Cleveland Avenue Southwest.

He said the burglary will lead to disappointment for many on Christmas morning.

“Engraving is about 40 percent of my work this time of year,” said Blackburn, the owner of the lone shoe and leather repair shop in Decatur.

“I engrave leather goods like golf bags, holsters, belts, saddles, ball gloves before Christmas. I was going to be very busy the next two or three weeks. (The equipment) is too expensive to replace. … I’m so disgusted. I’m about ready to give it up. It’s just so depressing.”

Blackburn said two years ago, thieves took patching machines, finishing machines and needles from his storage building, then located at 1915 Montgomery St. S.W.

This time during the past week, thieves took a push lawn mower, chain saw, weed trimmer, engraving machine and drills. He estimated his loss at $4,000. He had no insurance, he said.

“Twice they almost wiped me out,” he said. “(The thieves) knew what they were doing. I don’t have room here (his Fourth Avenue shop). Sometimes, I work out of the garage on Cleveland.”

He said his chance of ever seeing the equipment again is “zero.”

Emily Long, Decatur police spokeswoman, said Blackburn reported the incident to police at 2:04 p.m. Monday, and a police report would be ready sometime this afternoon.

He said he’s been shining and repairing shoes among a myriad of other jobs for the past 68 years and has been trying to help the homeless for about 21 years.

“It’s been rough sometimes,” he said. “About 10 years ago, I had my identity stolen. Now my equipment has been stolen twice. But I will pray for my trespassers. That’s the way it is supposed to be.”

He said his great-grandchildren will understand if Christmas gifts from him and his wife Thelma, 90, are slim.

Monday afternoon, patron Scott Casey, of Decatur, was visibly upset that thieves took Blackburn’s equipment. He said he paid $40 to Blackburn for engraving work.

“I’m mad as hell right now at those who stole from Jim,” he said. “He’s trying to make a living. He’s the only shoe repair shop in town and people steal from him. I won’t let him give me a refund.”

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mike.wetzel@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2442. Twitter @DD_Wetzel.

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