Tony’s Shoe Repair owner Misak Pirinjian in 2011.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been brutal, and relentless.

But rays of sunshine have regularly parted the clouds. Like the various, multi-faceted efforts to both support local restaurants and feed frontline workers. And the prose and artwork that have urged us to stay vigilant. And let’s not forget the Mill Valley Chamber’s COVID-19 MV Biz Fund, which raised nearly $100,000, with every $1,000 raised turned into a direct $1,000 cash grant for a local business.

Here’s the latest, much-needed ray of sunshine: because of the coronavirus-induced shelter in place order, Misak Pirinjian’s Tony’s Shoe Repair, one of Mill Valley’s most beloved local businesses, was forced to close his tiny shop at 38 Corte Madera Ave. for more than two months. Despite being one of the recipients of one of the MV Biz Fund’s $1,000 grants, the continued shutdown brought continued hardship, with business down 90 percent.

Longtime customers Anne Lahaderne and Jesse and Lew Kious organized a GoFundMe for Pirinjian,and they suggested a $5,000 goal, to which Pirinjian consented. Within an incredibly short period of time, the outpouring of love and support was evident. In just 10 days, the campaign has raised more than $40,000.

“The extreme generosity from you all is incredible,” Pirinjian posted to the campaign page. “I have been here for 50 years and I will want to be here another 50 years to take care of you all.”

Pirinjian grew up in Tel Aviv and moved to Marin with his family in 1969. The original Tony of Tony’s Shoe Repair founded the business in 1950 and died in 1963. Pirinjian’s father bought the business from an interim “Tony” in 1970, and after years of helping his father, Pirinjian took over in 1985. He’s married with three daughters and lives in Terra Linda.

PictureFilmmaker David Marks and Misak Pirinjian.

In 2012, filmmaker David Marks made a lauded documentary about Pirinjian, focusing on the near cult-status his shop has garnered over the years, with beaming customers seemingly unperturbed that their shoes need repair because it gives them a reason to chat with the inimitable Misak. Marks debuted the film at the Mill Valley Film Festival in 2013.

Throughout his customer interactions, Pirinjian weaves in the sort of back-and-forth that can only be found at a business that is steeped in its community. From passing out dog treats and belt advice to his latest thoughts on pro soccer and cold remedies, In the Cobbler’s Shoes shows off a man who is far more than his job title.

They come to get their shoes repaired – Pirinjian says “there’s nothing better than a well-worn shoe with a great shine” in praise of reusing versus replacing – but they leave with much more than a pair of renewed loafers.