NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk’s Shoe Guy says he’s “not a happy camper” these days.
Joe Ancona occupied a West Avenue storefront for 42 years as proprietor of Economy Shoe Repair, but was forced to move to make way for the Waypointe development. Business didn’t follow him and he has been sick an had to close for a while, he said. As a result, his store was burglarized last week.
“It was a weird robbery,” he said Monday. “They were nice thieves. They only took what they needed.”
Ancona is now in a Butler Street building owned by Stanley Seligson, one of the developers behind Waypointe, a mixed-use development that is expected to encompass nearly 20 acres along West Avenue, creating what Seligsen hopes will be a “unique town center” for uptown Norwalk.
The long-time Norwalk shoe repair guy moved out almost a year ago in advance of Phase 1 of the project. Paxton Kinol of Belpointe Capital, part of the development group, fulfilled his promise to put up large signs directing Ancona’s customers to his new location at 6 Butler St., but, “I’m dying over here.”
Thieves smashed the glass of the inside door on Seligson’s building, gaining entry to Economy Shoe Repair. There was no sign of forced entry on the outside door.
Ancona says the thieves broke in because of the sign on the door advertising that, as of Nov. 14, the store was closed due to emergency surgery.
Still, they didn’t take nearly as much as they could have taken – just some socks, some wallets and shoes of a particular size.
“What they took wasn’t worth much,” Ancona said.
Ancona happened to be in Monday to allow Alex of Alexander Glass and Mirror to replace the glass. The workman said that by law he had to install glass that would be much harder to break, like a windshield.
The old West Avenue storefront was broken into twice over the more than four decades he was there, Ancona said. While business is “dead” in the new locale, the shoe man fielded a phone call from a woman who wanted a shoe fixed right away. He turned her down as he is not back to work yet. “I’m weeks behind,” he said.
Seligson’s building is for sale, Ancona told the workman. He isn’t worried as he expects to move into the Waypointe development when it is built. The current desolated state of the lot did not seem to be a deterrent to his hopes.
Although there was no action on the expanse of dirt and rocks between Merwin and Orchard Streets on Monday, Ancona is optimistic.
“They put barriers up last week,” he said, referring to the now-closed sidewalk. “That’s progress.”
Tim Sheehan of the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency did not return a request for comment. In July, he said the developer expected to have both Phase 1 and Phase 2 done within 20 months.
Kinol contacts Ancona regularly, the Shoe Guy said. “They’ve been nice to me,” he said. “They’re still being nice – Paxton has been really, really nice. Everything he promised me he did for me.”