Best Sole Revival - 2002
It's a delicate business, salvaging footwear that costs as much as a used Honda, but Barry and Ellen Croft handle the art of shoe repair with an aw-shucks mirth that cuts through the pomp of Prada. Barry, who started Shoe Savers years ago, has become the official cobbler for Inner Loop socialites, city officials, lawyers and the occasional visiting celebrity. A typical day finds Ellen beaming at the line of customers -- which often winds out the door of their no-frills shop in the Rice Village -- while Barry polishes, stitches and refurbishes countless Manolo Blahniks and the occasional work boot. The Crofts are saviors of the chic, holding exclusive contracts with Saks Fifth Avenue and other swanky shoe mongers, yet the couple manages to keep the high-maintenance egos in check. "Snooty people don't bother me at all," Barry grins from his overloaded workstation. "I just don't deal with 'em."