Customers try to keep skate shop open

January 17, 2012 2:47:45 PM PST
A well known business in Queens was closing its doors because of tough times, but the closing date is now pushed back because so many customers came forward wanting the business to stay open.

"I feel like George Bailey in 'It's a Wonderful Life,'" said Don Klingbeil, owner of Klingbeil Shoe Labs.

Just like in that Christmas classic, this real life story is about second chances.

Don Klingbeil is the main character is this unfolding drama.

His workshop is Klingbeil Shoe Labs, where a team hand makes ice skates, no two boots are alike, all have a signature extra hook and decorative bottom.

His father, William, started the company some 60 years ago.

As a child, Don learned every aspect of the business.

"Every part, from sweeping the floors to doing the finishing to cutting the heels," Klingbeil said.

But he's now walking on egg shells; everyone here is, including Wrlmer.

"The impact that will affect me the most will be the emotional part," said Wrlmer Murillo, a Klingbeil employee.

That's because this unique operation may have to close its doors.

At its high point, they were making more custom boots then they could keep up with for skaters all over the world like Sarah Hughes, Sasha Cohen, even Eyewitness News anchor Liz Cho had two pairs made in the mid 80's.

But, when things slowed down, they were lucky to get 15 orders each week.

For the past two years, Don has been tapping into his savings to keep things running.

"I love taking care of the skater, when they come in and put boots on and they glow and I am happy and they leave, it's a wonderful thing," Klingbeil said.

People like Samantha, she's a synchronized skater at the University of New Hampshire, and is getting fitted for a new pair.

Just like things turned around, was like landing a quad.

Word got out that Don was having trouble, and what followed was an outpouring of support from the very same people who counted on him over the years, people who want to help.

"I'm doing 45 pairs a week to 50 pairs a week, backlogged 200 pairs of boots and it's all because of these beautiful skaters. I didn't know how much they really cared about us, I never knew, I didn't have any idea," Klingbeil said.

For more information on Klingbeil skates, please visit:

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