Nicholas Argyropoulos was a child when Germany invaded Greece during World War II, and tragedy struck his family when the communists killed his father. By the age of sixteen, he enlisted in the Greek army and fought the communists for two years during the Greek Civil War, before being whisked away to America, where he married, raised a family, and continues to work in his shoe repair store.
Every person has a story and seeing an elderly and simple man repairing shoes; one would think that his story would not be interesting. But looking closer, this story, a journey of almost eight decades from the killing grounds of Greece to repairing shoes for everyday people, is a tale to be preserved and remembered.
Nick was born in 1931, in Kato Poroia, Macedonia, Greece, just outside of the town of Serres. Shortly after, his family moved to Agia Paraskevi near Thessaloniki, Greece. At the age of ten, Nicholas’ father was taken into the mountains of Macedonia by Greek communists, fighting the Germans, and was killed. That same year, to help the surviving family members live, he went to work as a cobbler’s apprentice in a store in Thessaloniki, where his family had moved to. He continued his schooling until high school, where he quit at the age of sixteen and joined the Greek special forces. By seventeen, he was a highly trained officer that fought the communists during the Greek Civil War, but his training and activities during this time made him a prime target for the communists. With the help of the American government, he escaped to the United States in 1950.
After coming to this country, he spent a month in New York City and then moved to the Philadelphia area, where he found a job with the Newtown-Elgin Shoe Manufacturing Co., now out of business. His mother (Sultana) and three siblings followed several years later, and soon Nick married his wife, Maria, and had three children, Vicky, Theodore (Rocky), and Sotirios (Sam). From 1956 to 1958, he served a hitch in the United States Army, mostly in Germany, and then returned to cutting leather in a shoe factory.
Eventually, in the early 1970s, along with a partner, he opened Nick Caesar’s Shoe Repair in Exton, Pennsylvania. At the age of 89, he continues to run his store and service the community, which adored him, and which he returns that adoration.
Originally published on Cosmos Philly by Eleftherios Kostans.