Arsen is a musician who travels Europe with his band and lived off and on in Italy. He is also gifted in creating fine leather goods an art that he learned from his father. George, Arsen's father was a very well-known and respected man in Fresno CA. George was a man who you could call friend, and actually owned the neighboring business to my own father's shop when they were located at the Cedar and Ashlan plaza in Fresno CA back in the 60's-70's. Arsen has grabbed the ropes and continues his family legacy in leather...but it wasn't easy to digest at first.
We just got off of, I think it was a four month, five month tour, and I had to come back to the U.S. for my sister's wedding. And then two weeks after that, I was still here, my dad had a stroke. I was actually in San Francisco at the time. I mean, my mom called me and says, stay there. They might take him to Stanford. I didn't know what to do, I knew I had to help my dad out. I mean, and I'll be honest, I did not wanna do it. I thought, I tried to fake it. I'd be here every other day, that's the hours I put, right? And my dad's asking me, "Are you opening the store?" I lied to my dad, I told him, Dad yeah, I'm opening it up every day. My very first memory of coming to the shop and working with my dad was, he would pay me a commission for every polish I sold. And I think at that time the polish was probably a dollar or something like that. And I mean, a little kid, 25 cents commission was awesome, right? And then as things progressed, my dad would, he knew I wanted to get into music, this is many years forward, right? So, he have me the keys to the store and he told me, here's the keys to the store, I want you to go there and practice any time you want, but you have to learn a trade. And that's when I really started delving into this and learning the leather side of the business, repairing, making stuff. My dad would always fix this lady's Louis Vuitton handbags. And she came in once, and I think at that time my dad was, he would come to the store and just kinda hang out. And I remember my dad being there and the lady saying, what happened? And me, I thought I did a good job. I go, what do you mean what happened? And she goes, the stitching used to be a 100% straight, your dad used to follow all the holes. Did he get sick or something? I says, well, honestly I did it. My dad did have a stroke and honestly that changed everything. She pushed me to do a better job. I was already doing a decent job but she pushed me to do a better job. It just opened up my eyes to what quality was really. That was the beginning of the moment. And I've really always respected honest criticism 'cause I think that's how you could excel. A lot of times I'm tired at the end of the day. But there's something about it, you lock up the doors, put on your favorite song, or your favorite kind of music, you sit there, and you polish the shoes. It's very therapeutic, it is. Maybe 'cause you're just, you're taking a time-out of the day, you're doing something. And maybe it's actually telling the story of your day. You started off with a rugged shoe let's say, right? Started off with a bad day. At the end of the day, you polish it up and then now it's shiny, it's new again. That stuff, it's great. But, my passion is always in the creation. For me, when I make something, I appreciated it more. If they appreciate it, then any monetary value. Can't put a price on that. When people walk in here I kinda like it because they say, oh is this the shoe repair shop? Sometimes they'd ask. And I really love that because we're more than just a shoe repair shop. We make handmade pieces, belts, wallets, handbags, shoes, wine carriers. I mean, you name it, we can probably make it. That's where I kinda think in a way I have the upper hand in being a repair shop. 'Cause you hear it all. Oh, I wish this wallet had this. Oh, I wish this handbag had this. Oh, these shoes are so uncomfortable. You know, you hear what people want and you try to make something from that. Making something with your hands out of a blank piece of leather, I mean, blank canvas, and creating something out of it is probably one of the greatest feelings. I never realized how cool this art was, 'cause that's what it is. When I came and I started helping my dad, you could just see how much he lit up and how much part of his life was fulfilled. It was his dream to have a son in here working. I said, Dad, why do you like Fresno so much? And you know, he never really answered but now he doesn't have to answer, I understand. The people here are really what makes this town. When my dad was killed, I had to really decide, is this something I wanna continue? 'Cause I mean, do I wanna go back to Italy, this was my chance, right? If I wanna go back to Italy, I wanna go live there, this is my chance. It took me, I think a few seconds to say no, I'm staying.