ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – For almost 42 years, Rudy De Leon Jr. has poured his skill and passion into shoemaking or ‘cobbling.’ A family tradition passed down from his father and kept alive by he and his brother Leon De Leon. For these brothers, shoemaking is so much more than a job; it’s a reason to take pride in their family and a legacy of craftsmanship.

“I’ve done other things, but I’ve always come back to this trade… It’s something that I love to do and do well,” Rudy Jr. said. “It never mattered where I was at, what type of job I was doing. It was in my heart. This is who I am.”

Rudy Jr. owns and operates Lil Rudy’s Boot and Shoe Repair, a venture of his own making. Their father, Rudy Sr., began the family trade back in the 60s. He took up with another local cobbler and learned the ropes, eventually working his way to ownership at a time when Hispanics didn’t have many opportunities to thrive in the United States. He became one of the earliest successful Hispanic business owners in Abilene.

“It was very difficult in those early times, the late 60s, for Hispanics to get credit in businesses and get established… And the community saw that,” Rudy Jr. said.

Rudy Jr. and Leon with father Rudy De Leon Sr.

The brothers were raised in the family business and learned the importance of taking pride in their work. Their family’s success served as an inspiration to the community and the brothers.

“Him and my mom. She ran the front, and he ran the back. They had a little system going, and I loved it,” Rudy Jr. recalled.

Leon recently returned to help his brother run the business, expressing that he’s glad to be back and wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It never mattered where I was at, what type of job I was doing. It was in my heart. This is who I am… I just came back to work for him going on about three months and just to come back and work again and spend time with him. It means everything,” Leon said.

Leon and Rudy Jr. admit that their trade is not the most prominent, and their customer base has dwindled through the years. They assured that those who do come through the doors can always expect top quality for their dollar.

“I will do a pair of boots and repair them as if I was doing it for myself,” Rudy Jr. said.

With Rudy Sr. still stopping by the shop to share wisdom, the brothers happily continue their education and strive to provide the best product for their customers.

“I learned a lot more than boot and shoe repair (at my father’s shop). He taught us how to work hard and take pride in our work,” said Leon.

“Being a cobbler is just something that has been in my blood ever since I was a kid… I so much wanted to get my hands dirty and get involved… As long as I can swing a hammer, I’m gonna be here doing what I know how to do best,” Rudy Jr. said.

Lil Rudy’s Boot & Shoe Repair is located at 2347 North 6th Street in Abilene. Those interested in having some leather and shoe work done or learning more about the craft can reach them at (325) 721-1477.