Terry at Fortunas Shoe and Leather Repair

Terry Fortuna at the window of Fortuna’s Shoe and Leather Repair

Businesses appear and disappear from the streets of large cities and small towns every day. A stop-action film of any community would seem like a boiling froth of small businesses — with shop fronts popping into existence and either radically changing or neatly winking out of site within the space of a few frames.

Joe Fortuna and the original staff of Fortuna's

Joe Fortuna with some of the staff of the original Fortuna’s Shoe and Leather Repair

For the small town of Bethesda, Maryland, that same stop-action movie would seem less like froth and more like a volcanic eruption. Over the course of the past half-century, the landscape of Bethesda has changed completely and irrevocably. Tiny shops and cement factories have given way to fancy restaurants and upmarket chain stores.

Fortuna's Shoe and Leather Repair on Wisconsin Avenue

Fortuna’s Shoe and Leather Repair on Wisconsin Avenue, circa 1940


But, watch that stop-action film again, and keep your eye fixed on the part of the movie that remains constant. Keep watching the one shop that moves just twice in over 75 five years — each time, only a few blocks away. Keep watching the stream of customers going in with their children in tow, and leaving as silver-haired retirees — their children fully grown and helping them across the now busy streets of Bethesda.

Joe Fortuna at Fortuna's Shoe and Leather Repair in 1940

Joe Fortuna, circa 1940, giving a grade school tour of Fortuna’s Shoe and Leather Repair

Now watch those grown children go in with children of their own. And still, the same sign hangs over the door. Still the same culture of trust and respect radiates outward from the shop, and is reflected by the community. Now read the sign. The word itself evokes the principle force of change at work in our lives, and the principle force of any stability we enjoy: FORTUNA.

Young Fortuna at Fortunas Shoe and Leather Repair

A young Fortuna, age 12, takes his turn at the last.

For almost 100 years, this small business has been a beacon of stability for the otherwise ever-changing landscape in Washington, Maryland and Virginia. Founded by a first-generation Italian American, Fortuna’s is still in the hands of the Fortuna family and (we are very lucky to be able to say) some of our life-long friends.

Come and see us. Bring us your shoes, your handbags, your luggage, your leather. We will extend its life and value for you and do everything we can to make sure you keep coming back when you need us. We’re in the business of spreading trust — in our community and in each other. We are in the business of life-extension, of stability and hope.

As our founder, my Grandfather, had emblazoned on his stationery seventy five years ago: We save soles.


Joseph A. Fortuna, Jr.

Brooklyn, New York