Sunderland cobblers Wear U Well While U Wait shuts up shop after more than 50 years of trading in the city centre

An independent shoe repair business has shut up shop for the last time after more than 50 years.

Wear U Well While U Wait cobblers and key cutting, in Borough Road, run by husband and wife John and Jean Hibbert, was one of the city centre’s longest-serving businesses.

Saturday, September 3 saw its last day as John, 74, from Ryhope, bade a fond farewell to his loyal customers for the very last time as he retires.

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He opened the shop on the bustling street on August 23, 1971 after he began learning his trade at 15 working at Lennards shoe repair shop near the train station.

John and Jean Hibbert are off to enjoy a well-deserved retirement after more than 50 years of trading in the city centre.

He went to work at the Co-Op in Silksworth where he met Jean. They were married in 1967 and have four children, 10 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

He closed up for the final time at 1pm on Saturday after 51 years.

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It was a busy day with customers constantly popping in to wish him well for the future.

Speaking on his final day of trading, John said: “There’s been loads of people in today, people with gifts and just coming in saying thank you.

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John Hibbert on the tools before his retirement on Saturday, September 3.

“I will miss my customers the most, 50 years of waving out the window.

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“I would like to say thanks to them for their loyalty over the years.”

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Over the years John has repaired tens of thousands of pairs of shoes, with up to four generations of families returning as customers.

John and Jean Hibbert, pictured on their final day before retirement at their cobblers in Borough Road.
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He has been joined in the shop by wife Jean for much of the 51 years, in between having the children.

During the 1970s and 80s, much of his work involved repairing the work boots of the city’s many shipyard workers and miners.

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As industry declined, trade turned more to office shoes.

The business survived the Covid-19 pandemic, which has seen more people working from home leading to less workers needing shoe repairs, while the rise in electronic keys led to less demand for key cutting.

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John said he was looking forward to his well-earned retirement after so many six-day weeks, adding: “I’m over the moon.”

He and Jean do not have any concrete plans, but are looking forward to relaxing and trips out together.

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John put the shop’s longevity down to their honesty and reliability, which saw customers constantly coming back.