Midtown History: Robert Babekian
Written by Stepheny McGraw

Photo by Sharon Fox

It wasn't shoes that Robert Babekian first worked on when he came to California, although at 22, he had been manager of high end Ernest Hoffman Shoes in Europe.

No, when Robert first came to California, in 1975, it was steaks, not shoes that he handled. He sometimes grilled as many as 100 a night at his friend's Cable Car Restaurant in San Francisco. "Two minutes and the steak's done."

The Lebanese native worked seven days and seven nights at the grill and saved enough so that by 1979, he was able to buy the Deleon Shoe Shop and change its name to Midtown Shoe Repair. It has been a Midtown fixture for more than 26 years.

Whether it's his smile and easy going way or his ability to fix what is brought in, Robert prides himself that when "people come in unhappy, I make them happy." He's magically opened unopenable suitcases, fresh from a trip. He's patched together a worn out, but favorite pair of soccer shoes. And sometimes he just tells a would be customer the shoe is fine as it is.

In 1980, he bought a duplex in Redwood City and rented out the apartment he didn't live in. By 1984, he was ready to get married and went back to Lebanon and the Armenian community there to marry Silva who lived next door to his brother. They have three children - Marielle, "Saco" and Peter -- whose faces were familiar around the shop as they were growing up. Marielle is studying to be a dermatologist, Saco, a mechanical engineer and Peter is still young and "everywhere."

A long time soccer fan and player, Robert has played with the Minute Men for 10 to 12 years. The same men also field a basketball team. He still lives in Redwood City, but up the hill from the duplex. Now in a hilltop house, he enjoys Sunday projects like building a gazebo and a barbecue to grill those two minute steaks.

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