Independently Owned for Nearly 40 Years
In 1977, having been trained by their father in the ways of shoe repair, brothers John and Joel Byrns opened The Awl Shoppe, taking in their first dollar on June 4th. Soon after, they were joined by Al Wickstrom and began gaining a reputation in the city for their quality work. Situated in a strip mall on the corner of 33rd St. and Avenue P North, the store specialized in shoe and boot repair while also retailing work boots. Within a couple of years, the company had grown enough to start hiring a staff and thinking about expanding.
In 1981, The Awl Shoppe welcomed Bob Gibb as a partner and left its original location for a larger space on 4th Avenue North, where they would add luggage retail and repair to their business. But on the day they were set to have their grand opening, the restaurant next door burned down, destroying the Shoppe’s building in the process. After scrambling to find a new home, the store settled in a building on the corner of 23rd St. and Pacific Avenue, opening to the public on October 17th.
1982 brought the first expansion of The Awl Shoppe, with a second location opening up in Market Mall. The store is still in operation today as the third longest running tenant in the mall’s history and is managed by the legendary Wilma Miller, who has been there since its inception. Not long after that location came along, the company acquired Team Manufacturing and began to produce some of their own products.
The Awl Shoppe expanded again in 1985, with a location opening in Midtown Plaza under the management of Laverne Vigoren, who has been with the company since 1983 and can still be found dispensing her encyclopedic knowledge of our products at the downtown store, much to the delight of our customers. That same year, Al Wickstrom parted ways with the company, taking the boot retail part of the business with him as he bought Broadway Shoe Repair, successfully running it for many years before selling it to his son.
By the end of the 80’s, The Awl Shoppe had added two more locations in Regina, making it a truly provincial business that offered a multitude of repairs to go along with an expansive array of retail products such as purses, wallets, backpacks, and sport bags, as well as the quality luggage they were already known for. It was also around this time that the Midtown store was relocated across the street to the Canada Building and Team Manufacturing was sold to John and Joel’s brother Pat, who turned it into SBC Case; a business he ran successfully for many years.
In 1991, amidst a snowstorm, the Shoppe left its home on 23rd St. on a Friday and opened its current location at 714 2nd Avenue North the following Monday, October 30th (a mere three days later!), thanks in part to luggage repair man Al Stinson, who used his truck to bulldoze through the snow in the parking lot so that the building could be reached. Al has been with the company since 1988, and is still happy to tell this story while being The Awl Shoppe’s ultimate handyman.
By 1995, health issues were taking a toll on co-founder Joel Byrns, so he sold his share to Bob and John in order to focus on taking care of himself. This time period also saw the closing of the Canada Building store as well as both Regina locations, leaving the Shoppe with its two current destinations.
Following the events of September 11th, 2001, The Awl Shoppe endured some very hard times because of the downturn in the travel industry. But just a few years later, in 2005, the company broke new ground locally when they began carrying Briggs & Riley Travelware. This very successful relationship with the world’s top luggage company has helped The Awl Shoppe thrive again, and this top end product remains the store’s top selling brand to this day.
Today, The Awl Shoppe is Saskatoon’s premier source for quality luggage, travel accessories and shoe care products. We also offer the best shoe repair around, courtesy of our resident shoe guru, Andrew Morden, and we are the only luggage repair facility left in the province. We pride ourselves on doing top notch repairs to a wide variety of items, offering high quality products for sale, and providing customer service that is rooted in a decades-long tradition of being as informative as possible.