After 32 years operating his iconic store in Wellington, Richard “Woody” Wood is hanging up his boots and trading it in for a fishing pole.
When it came to the future of his cobbler shop Woody’s of Wellington, Wood had several offers. He decided that the store, which has a specialty in equestrian boot repairs, would be in the best hands with someone he knew personally and trusted.
New owner Anthony Bozzi is no rookie, coming into the store with more than 25 years’ experience working with shoes and leather repairs.
“It’s a continuous learning curve, but after 25 years of working in the industry, I realized when I started working with Woody, there was more wisdom to be had,” Bozzi said. “I like that because you have got to be a seeker of wisdom in this business.”
Bozzi moved to Florida from Rhode Island, where he grew up with three brothers and has always understood what it means to be a hard worker.
“I came into a shoe repair shop with a stain on my shoe, and I was pretty amazed at how quickly he got the stain out,” Bozzi recalled. “He had a hiring sign up in the store, and I asked him to hire me. I had no experience. I started working, he took me in for the easiest job in the store — shoe shining.”
Over the next two decades, he gained experience working with all types of materials, including a variety of leathers, canvas and other fabrics. Bozzi found his calling in both working with his hands and luxury items.
“I’m a firm believer that if you don’t have a passion for what you do, and love what you do, you’re not going to be good at it,” Bozzi said. “The luxury shoes are something that we specialize in. We have the materials, the know-how and the machinery to do it. If you’re spending $500, $1,000 or more on a pair of shoes, you want to protect them and get the best value.”
One popular new item is the protective sole, which adds cushion while also improving the grip of a shoe, including heels.
“It’s like putting a radial tire over your sole. It’s thin, and it’s the best,” Wood said.
“Especially on a luxury item like Christian Louboutin and Gucci,” Bozzi added. “They are an oil resistant, non-slip, non-marking material. We have it in several different colors to match the shoe, and it’s a quick turn time.”
Bozzi made it clear that fast service is also an important part of the Woody’s tradition that will stick around.
“You have to be innovative,” said Bozzi, who does have a few plans in mind for the future. “For many items, we offer while-you-wait service, and we are looking at expanding the retail lines in the storefront.”
The changing of the guard won’t change the services offered, nor the quality expected by longtime customers.
Woody’s will continue to carry a variety of shoe service products, including leather dye, polish, water repellents, preservers, shoe stretchers, shoe trees, shoe cream and wax. The store also carries items like metatarsal and tongue pads, three-quarter length or full-length insoles.
“We also do orthopedic work such as build-ups. Many people suffer from what they call a leg-length discrepancy,” Bozzi said. “I’m able to add the difference on one shoe to balance them out, whether it is a child’s or an adult shoe. I did a lot of work for the Paley Institute, which is a medical facility in West Palm Beach.”
Bozzi has enjoyed working with and learning from Wood over the past few years and is ready to take the helm of the iconic shop. Nevertheless, the longtime owner will be missed.
Wood has been driving more than an hour each way to the store for years, and he is looking forward to spending time at his home and out on the water fishing. His loyal shih tzu Chloe is retiring along with him.
“I’ve enjoyed working here, I really have — but the time has come to retire,” Wood said. “My true love is fishing. I love to smoke fish and make fish dip. Plus, there’s mermaids out there to be caught.”
While many longtime friends will miss Wood himself, they will still have the opportunity to receive personal attention and service in the shop they know and love. In its 32 years of operation, 38 Olympians have walked through the shop’s doors, and Bozzi looks forward to seeing more in the future.
Woody’s of Wellington is located in the original Wellington Mall at 12794 W. Forest Hill Blvd., Suite 3. It is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, call (561) 798-1440 or visit www.woodyswellington.com.