• The Old Post Office Café has reopened in downtown Brooklet under new ownership by Brooklet natives and brothers Austin and Josh Donaldson. Austin is a graduate of Ogeechee Technical College Culinary School and Josh is a former Marine. Look for new additions to the menu. They are open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Catering continues to be a very popular part of the business. Find the cafe on Facebook or call (912) 842-4706.
• Farmers Market Vendor of the Week: Verdant Kitchen specializing in ginger ale, cookies and syrup.
In June 1976, when Pope Duncan handed Jimmy Lee Raymond his diploma as he walked across the stage at Georgia Southern College, he had just completed a milestone that would impact his life forever.
Raymond was the first African-American to graduate from Georgia Southern with a Bachelor of Science in education. His emphasis was industrial education. The Statesboro native was also the first in his family to complete a college degree.
Raymond graduated years earlier from the last segregated class at William James High School in 1967. After graduation, he enrolled at Savannah State College and really enjoyed the college experience. It was at Savannah State that he discovered his love for leather craft that has continued throughout his life.
After taking a break from college and receiving strong encouragement from his mother, he re-enrolled at Georgia Southern.
Upon graduation, he accepted his first teaching job in Glennville where he taught technical skills including drafting, general electrical and sheet metal. Raymond then moved to Atlanta and taught there before coming back home.
"I have always been a bit of an entrepreneur and an artist. I would do leather craft at arts and crafts shows on the weekends and paint signs around town during the week," he said. "The sign painting business was very good until vinyl lettering came to town."
In 1997, Keith Boyett opened a shoe and leather repair shop in the Statesboro Mall called Heel Sew Quick. He had heard about Raymond's leather craft skills and reached out to him to join his team.
"Keith told me that the franchise required two weeks of training at a cost of $2,000 per week," Raymond said. "He told me that I was much smarter than most folks that attend that training and he knew I could learn enough in one week to run the equipment and handle the business."
With just one week of training, Raymond had found a new love.
He worked at Heel Sew Quick for two years and decided he wanted to go out on his on again. With the encouragement and support of his family and friends, he opened a store front shoe shop on West Main Street.
The small shop was located beside Statesboro Carpet and Tile in a building owned by the late Johnny McCorkle. He named the store W&J Shoe repair.
"My brother is named Willie and my name is Jimmy so that is where W&J originally came from," he said. "Willie never really worked in the business but convinced me that W&J Shoe Repair sounded better than Jimmy's Shoe Repair. Eight years ago, my wife Sheila quit her job at the college and bought the business so now it stands for 'Wife' and Jimmy Shoe Repair."
McCorkle was more than just a landlord to Raymond. He became a trusted friend and mentor.
"When I first started in business I was late on my rent," Raymond said. "Mr. McCorkle told me that he really liked me but the first of every month he would be collecting his rent money. He said he noticed that I had been real busy and there was lots of shoes on the shelves ready for pickup and he wondered why I did not have rent money. I explained to him that I was waiting on all these people to pick up their shoes and pay me. Starting right then, I never took another pair of shoes in for repair without payment up front. That simple advice saved my business."
Last year the Averitt Center purchased the buildings on West Main from the McCorkle family. The Averitt is renovating the space to relocate its dance studio. Not wanting to lose the long-term tenant, the Averitt Center renovated an adjacent building and is leasing it to W&J Shoe Repair.
The building is not as visible but is just around the corner from the original location, between the dance studio and Thayer Monument Company on West Main.
"Everybody wears shoes," Raymond said. "Even people who can't walk in wheelchairs wear shoes. So no matter if you are walking or not, you are wearing shoes and you need us. We will treat you right and take care of all your leather needs."
My wife and daughter both really, really like shoes, and W&J has become an important part of our family. What he and Sheila do is truly a form of art that is a continuation of an important part of Americana.
If you can't find their new location, call them at (912) 682-8846 and they will get you there.
Please email DeWayne at firstname.lastname@example.org or give him a call at (912) 489-9499.