Myrna Boyle has been working at Godfrey’s Luggage & Leather Repairs & Sales for 50 years. She can fix about 15 bags (and wallets, brief cases, golf bags) a day and, to the delight of her customers, doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon.
I brought a broken suitcase with me to our meeting, as I have done many times before, and got a ticket instructing me to pick it up in a week’s time. “Unless there is a rush?” she checked, “Any travel plans?” Mrs. Boyle’s work is very reasonably priced, for her to fix the zipper on this bag it will run me about $16. Other repairs are more extensive, of course, but luggage that would otherwise be thrown out can be made good as new in Mrs. Boyle’s capable hands. “Some take a long time, you have to do it right.” The odd item is too far gone, she says, and she doesn’t hesitate let people know if it is. “For other things I’ll say ‘no, I don’t think you should spend the money on that.’”
Mrs. Boyle also has a contract with West Jet and helps them repair items damaged in transit, as bags often drop into the luggage carousal in a different state than when their owner last saw them at the airport baggage drop-off. The also repairs luggage for other airlines as well.
Richard Godfrey started the business in the mid ‘40s and Mrs. Boyle started working as his assistant 20 years later in the mid ‘60s. When Mr. Godfrey died suddenly in 1976 Mrs. Boyle took over. “Mr. Godfrey also used to make leather badges for the police and fire departments. He hadn’t taught me how to do it, but when he died I took over and had to learn quickly so I could support his family.”
Police badges aside, the business hasn’t changed much in the last 70 years. They moved from central downtown to their current location in 1988 and recently bumped their opening hour from 8:30 to 9:30am – “I thought I might like to sleep in” – other than that is has been business as usual.
An assistant comes in for two hours a week to help tidy up and manage merchandise, but Mrs. Boyle manages the shop and does all the work herself. “I just love her, she’s excellent,” she said of her assistant.
Mrs. Boyle has dedicated clients who have been coming to her for years. “I have such lovely older clients. They bring me cookies and say ‘I hope you never close.’ I’m as old as they are!”
Thinking back to the time I lost track of the engagement ring I was hiding from my soon to be wife in our luggage, I asked Mrs. Boyle if she has every found anything interesting in the bags people bring in to be fixed. Without missing a beat she laughed and described the rather intimate toy she once found in a bag brought in by a rather “demure” lady. “Oh, I didn’t say anything. I just discretely put it in one of the pockets,” she explained with a chuckle.
Mrs. Boyl doesn’t have a website, or computer for that matter, but the landline in her shop works just fine and she’s happy to accommodate clients who drop by with repair jobs. She has some luggage (new and consignment) for sale in store, and said she used to sell other Canadian leather goods but stopped when her supplier went out of business. “If I can’t get the good Canadian ones I don’t want any at all.” I know there are a lot of talented people in Victoria who make leather goods so I asked if she would be willing to restock if a local designer wanted to display some items. “I would be most interested!” she said.
“It breaks my heart to see those little businesses close,” Mrs. Boyle said as we chatted about all the local businesses we have seen come and go in Victoria. Godfrey’s Luggage & Leather Repairs & Sales speaks to a historic value of repairing, reusing, and caring for ones belongings. Though society’s buying habits have become increasingly disposable, Godfrey’s endurance when many other small businesses have closed over the last 70 years shows that value has not been lost.
Godfrey’s is open Tuesday to Saturday from 9:30am to 5:00pm. If you have any purses, wallets, luggage, or golf bags that need repairing give Mrs. Boyle a call at 250-388-5262 or pop in to see her at 2508 Douglas Street, Victoria, V8T 4M1.
June 23, 2017