Santos is shoemaker and cobbler extraordinaire to the cast of the award-winning San Francisco production; the earl of errant glitter, the soul of scuffed polish and the tinker of torn laces.
Three days a week, the owner of Galletti Brothers Shoe Service in Brentwood hoofs it down to the North Beach theater district to pick up or drop off bundles of shoes.
“Some days I come back with a dozen pairs, sometimes more,” said Santos. “They (the performers) have three or four shows a week and something is always breaking. So I pick them up on certain days and make sure I return them on certain days, too.”
There are, of course, reserve shoes. “Yes, they have many of the same kind so they always have something on their feet,” he said. “Especially for anything that breaks between times I’m there.”
Santos landed the lucrative and prestigious shoe gig in l999 when the life-long shoe-maker simply walked into the theater and offered his services.
“I just said, ‘Give me a try,’ and they did,” laughed Santos, who has an exclusive contract with the production company. “It’s worked out ever since.”
And because he never knows what condition the shoes will be in, “New dancers are the hardest on their shoes,” Santos has learned to always be prepared.
“What I see the most of is broken taps and rubber that need to be replaced,” he said. “The taps need to be put on a certain way so that when the dancers put their toes or heels together, they make a noise. It’s not good if there is no noise.
“But the shoes also need to be dyed, glitter must be replaced – it’s always something different.”
Santos bought the San Francisco store from the original Galletti brothers in l999. And although a large portion of his business comes from the city, the high cost of living there eventually forced him to cast an eye toward East County. In 2003, he and his wife relocated to Brentwood.
Three weeks ago, Santos officially moved his business east as well, and while he continues to serve his Golden Gate clients, Santos also looks forward to meeting the needs of his urban neighbors as well.
“I’m happy to be here in Brentwood and I’m enjoying meeting everyone,” said Santos, who grew up in the Philippines. “My father was a shoemaker and he taught me well. I know what I’m doing. I use only the highest quality products and materials. I give customers back their shoes in much better condition than I got them.”
His store on Walnut Boulevard – next to Brentwood Fine Meats – is a working shop filled with bags and boxes of shoes. Yellow tags are attached to each item and a small table in the corner floating with paper is his invoicing system. “Organized chaos,” he calls it, and rightly so. But on a moment’s notice, Santos can put his hand on a shoe, jacket, belt or handbag, and know exactly what needs to be done and when.
“I don’t know anything about computers but I know how to find all this,” he said, with a wave of his arm. “I make lots of notes, I know what to fix and I know where it goes. It’s worked for me so far.”
“Beach Blanket” isn’t Santo’s only gig. The entrepreneur has a standing relationship with such high-end San Francisco retailers as Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. The merchant magnates contract with Santos to polish and make repairs on their clients’ shoes – shoes with names like Ferragamo, Prada and Manolo Blahnik.
“Expensive shoes break, too,” said Santos, holding up an open-toed Manolo Blahnik, a third of which had been chewed off by its owner’s dog. “I can fix this, no problem. It’s an expensive shoe; it’s worth it.”
Although Santos doesn’t personally wear the designer names on a daily basis, he does admit to having a penchant for shoes. “I like a nice loafer,” he said, and contends that the English and Italians are the best cobblers. “They really know how to make a shoe.”
So after 10 years of constant trips behind the scenes of one the longest-running productions in history, has Santos ever seen “Beach Blanket” as a member of the audience?
“Oh, many times, many times,” he laughed. “We’ve been guests before, yes. It’s a great show.”
Galletti Brothers Shoe Service is located at 3877 Walnut Blvd., Suite H in Brentwood. For additional information, including store hours, call 240-0063.