MEDINA, Ohio — You could say that local documentarian Miles Reed has put his heart and soul — or maybe sole — into his newest film, about Medina’s Porter family and their shoe repair business.
Reed — a local historian, writer and filmmaker — presented “The Story of a Medina Treasure” Feb. 4 at the Medina Library. One hundred people crowded the community rooms to hear the Porters’ story.
Brian Feron, president of the Medina County Historical Society, welcomed the guests to the first membership meeting of the year.
Reed began his presentation by saying that he was not aware of the Porter business until he reached adulthood.
“I never had a pair of shoes nice enough to fix,” he said.
But when the building housing the Porters’ shoe repair shop was scheduled to be torn down, local supporters of the business approached Reed to preserve the story.
Reed realized that along with blacksmith shops and milliners, shoe repair shops are about to be a thing of the past. He delved into the history of the “little, humble building” at 137 W. Liberty St. — and found a treasure trove of Medina history.
Robert Porter, father of Herb Porter and one of a very few African-Americans in Medina, founded the Porter Shoe Repair business in 1956, the same year that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks were organizing the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycotts.
An entrepreneur, Robert Porter opened seven store locations by 1965 — including one each in Wellington, Brunswick, Rittman and Fairlawn, in addition to the Medina store. By the time he died, he had been responsible for the establishment of 20 stores, some opened by former employees he had mentored.
Medina resident Billy Stephenson started working for Porter when he was 17 years old. Twenty years later, he had two stores of his own.
Herb Porter and his wife, Phyllis, ran the repair shop on Liberty Street in Medina until 2020, when they were forced to move to 799 N. Court St., Suite 26. At that time, the City of Medina and community members banded together to raise funds to keep the business afloat.
Herb died in 2021, leaving Phyllis to continue running the business.
Reed ended his presentation with information about Medina’s role in professional boxing and its connection to the shoe repair shop.
In 1956, Pete Rademacher, later a Medina resident and a regular customer of the Porter Shoe Repair shop, won the gold medal in the heavyweight boxing division of the 1956 Olympics.
In 1959, Amos Johnson, a Medina resident who worked across the street from the Porter store at Bond Buick, defeated Muhammed Ali to win the light-heavyweight division gold medal at the Pan American games. He later fought Sonny Liston in Germany.
In 1975, Ali came to Medina High School to help promote a Golden Gloves Amateur event organized by Rademacher.
The program ended with short anecdotes and tributes from the audience.
Phyllis Porter, a late arrival to the presentation because she was working at the shop, spoke briefly about meeting and loving the people who came to the store over the years.
Customers can still meet Phyllis Porter and have their leather goods repaired at 799 N. Court St., Suite 26.
For information about the Medina County Historical Society and its upcoming events, access medinacountyhistoricalsociety.com.
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