Delmar Bootery, at 84, added to state registry

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

“The Delmar Bootery is older than I am … They’ve become an institution,” says Senator Neil Breslin as he presents Gail Leonardo Sundling, center, and her daughter, Mandy Young, with a proclamation on Tuesday.

GUILDERLAND — “This is very heartwarming,” said Gail Leonardo Sundling as her voice cracked with emotion.

Her shop, the Delmar Bootery, was lauded on Tuesday for being added to the New York State Historic Business Preservation Registry, which recognizes businesses “that have been in operation for at least 50 years and have contributed to their community’s history.”

The bootery was founded in 1940 in Delmar by her father, Jack Leonardo, who had started a shoe-repair store in Rochester in 1931 at the age of 17.

Jack Leonardo died in 1970 when Sundling was just graduating from high school, she said.

“My mother took over, learned the craft, and worked by herself for six years until she broke her neck in a car accident,” said Sundling.

Sundling was the youngest of four and said her siblings were busy with other endeavors. “They looked at me and said, ‘You take over.’”

And she did.

Sundling was pregnant with her daughter, Mandy, when she started running the store, she said.

“She kind of got it through osmosis,” said Sundling, stating that the store, which moved to Stuyvesant Plaza in 1988, wouldn’t function without Mandy Young.

She said her daughter “really is the nuts and bolts of the business.”

In addition to shoe repair, the bootery now sells shoes, purses, and other leather goods, as well as shoe-care products and orthotics.  

The business through three generations is a family affair, Sundling said, noting her husband does the books.

“Mostly what we love,” said Sundling through tears, “is serving the community, being part of the community and continuing our legacy for Mom and Dad; thank you — I hope you’re proud.”

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