Historic Detroit Cobbler Perseveres Despite Construction, Family Tragedy

Ronda Morrisson is the second generation to run her family’s shoe cobbler business on Detroit’s Avenue of Fashion. Keeping the store open can mean meeting unexpected challenges.

For Detroiters, Livernois has historically been known as the Avenue of Fashion. It’s peppered with shops dedicated to getting suited and booted.

But as of late, the construction there has also become notorious. To the dismay of business owners and residents in the area, this year is the second time in 13 years the city has torn up the street to change its landscape.

“​I say cobblers are the same as an alchemist, [turning] raw metal into gold. One who can turn something of no value into something of unmeasurable value.” – Ronda Morrisson, cobbler

Ronda Morrison, owner of House of Morrison Shoe Repair on Livernois, has been here all along. It’s one of the oldest shoe repair shops, if not the oldest, in Detroit. 

Click on the player above to hear Ronda Morrisson’s story on keeping her family’s cobbler business running through the years.

Erin Allen / WDET
Erin Allen / WDET

“I don’t think anyone was really prepared,” Ronda says. The construction “really put us in a tailspin.”

She’s been carefully managing her personal and business finances to manage the disruption. 

“I was taught that the first money out of this store has to take care of this store,” Ronda says. “So you’re up, you’re down, you fold, you don’t. You know, that’s what we do.”

‘That’s what we do’ could be a personal motto for Morrison. She’s the second generation to run the family business, and if it’s up to her, House of Morrison ain’t going nowhere. 

Ronda’s father, Theodore Morrison, is the original owner of House of Morrison Shoe Repair. He opened his doors in 1954 at a different location and moved to Livernois in the ‘70s, when Rhonda was 11. Eventually, she began working at the shop. By 1991, her dad was ready to retire.

“I never fixed a physical shoe before my father retired,” she says. But Ronda did it, because, like she said, that’s what we do. She took over House of Morrison and kept the business in the family.

WDET’s Erin Allen visited Morrison to understand what it means to be a family business in a changing city. 

“We’re going to just try to bring House of Morrison’s up to the standards of the new Avenue of Fashion,” Morrison says. “We’ll [be] equipped to be in the business for the next 30 years.”

This piece was produced for the Transom Traveling Workshop in Detroit, Mich.

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