James Napier, owner of Factory Finish Shoe Repair located at 233 Northeast Front Street in the Riverwalk Shopping Center, fills his life with two kinds of “soul.” An award winning musician, Mr. Napier performs classical soul and gospel music around the world. He says that even when he is on the road, he has a shoe-repair shop open somewhere.
“I learned how to repair shoes from my father when I was growing up in Cincinnati,” Mr. Napier said. “Repairing shoes was something I did when I wasn’t playing music. I have been singing since I was around 12, but have been a professional musician since I was 27.” Mr. Napier actually has a day named for him in his native Cincinnati. He and several friends, including L.A. Reid, were honored with the day in 2003. In the city, April 26 is known as James Napier Day in recognition of a song he helped write that brought people together during civil unrest. He performs under the name Lashaade and has several albums of soul and gospel music.
Mr. Napier owned and operated Capital Shoe Repair and Leather Work on Loockerman Street in Dover for many years. He said that he knew a shoe repair shop opened in the mall and he was getting ready to head out on the road on tour for his musical career.
“I knew Skip Pikus,” Mr. Napier said. “Skip would send me prescription work, like he would take in the shoes and send them to me for repair or adjustment. We developed a really good working relationship. He and I were working on a plan for me to open a shoe repair shop inside his store. He was really excited about it.” Mr. Napier said after returning from his tour, he spoke to Mr. Pikus on the phone and they planned to meet in two weeks. When he arrived at Lou’s Bootery for the meeting, he saw the flowers and cards at the door. It was then that he learned that Mr. Pikus had passed away.
Mr. Napier said that he decided he would continue with his plan to open a shoe repair store in Milford to honor Mr. Pikus’ memory. He said that Mr. Pikus had been very kind and supportive of his relocation to Milford and that it was this kindness that encouraged him to open his shop in the town.
“I have spoken to Mayor Bryan Shupe,” Mr. Napier said. “He told me that the building where Lou’s Bootery was has been purchased and is being completely renovated. If possible, I would like to move my shop into that location once the renovations are complete. I think that would be the greatest homage to Skip, for me to open my shop there like the two of us planned before his death. It was so very sudden and I think he would look down on me and smile if he knew that this wish was coming true.”
As Lashaade, Mr. Napier has made a childhood dream come true with his musical career. He grew up playing pretend instruments, watching his older siblings and their friends play. He calls well-known mucicians like Baby Face, Bootsie Collins, Luther Vandross and Roger Trotmon of ZAPP his friends. Lashaade is inspired by Luther Vandross and he recorded his first song, “Come Sinner Come,” in August 1988.
Mr. Napier has also been committed to helping young people. After receiving a large commission from a McDonald’s jingle he wrote in 1993, he purchased a building and opened several businesses that catered to youth in the area. He moved to Nashville in the 1990s but returned to Cincinnati in 2000 due to the civil unrest in his hometown, putting his career on hold. It was during this time that he wrote “We Must Come Together,” a song that became the theme song for the city.
“I know how much Skip was looking forward to bringing a shoe repair shop to Milford,” Mr. Napier said. “He was such a strong supporter of this town and promoted its benefits well. I am humbled to be able to bring one of his dreams to life with this shop.”
The shop is open Mondays and Saturdays from 11 AM until 7 PM and Tuesday through Friday from 8 AM until 7 PM.
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