Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Fixing Firefighters Boots As A Business

Mike Flood Story

Running into burning buildings is hard on the sole. That's where Mike Flood comes in. Though not a physician, Flood is a healer of sorts. As owner of Shoe Tech Inc., Flood heals ailing footwear for firefighters across the country. Wilmington, Del.-based Shoe Tech ( is one of just a handful of shops that specialize in warrantied fire boot repairs. Following pre-established fire-safety guidelines, Flood and two employees re-sole, repair and restore this critical gear.

This business niche resulted from a random drop-in by a salesman for a fire boot manufacturer in the mid-1990s. He asked whether Flood would consider warrantied fireman boot repairs. One job led to another, and the specialty grew. Firemen ship their boots directly to Flood, who repairs, bills the manufacturer and returns the boots to their owners. Repairs range from $20 to $50, depending on the job.

Much of Shoe Tech's boot work is straightforward, except when the waterproof inner bootie must be moved. Flood explains that, after repositioning the bootie, gluing it from the outside is difficult. Through trial and error, Flood discovered that an unlikely surgical instrument-a heavy-gauge hypodermic needle-solves the problem. The needle delivers glue perfectly through the leather upper to the bootie. "The needle looks like the size you'd use on a rhinoceros," says Flood. "I feel like a doctor, sometimes."

Flood admits his process leaves a bit of glue on the upper. "But these guys don't wear their boots to church," he says.