master orthopedic shoemaker uwe damm celebrates 25th anniversary
Langen’s foot whisperer by passion
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customers even come from far away to uwe damm in langen. For a quarter of a century now, the native of leipzig has been running his store for foot orthopedic technology and shoe craftsmanship in the upper bahnstrasse. He explains why the trade is having such a hard time and why he almost ended up in a completely different industry.
Langen – how many feet he has seen in the past 25 years? Uwe damm silent. The foot health expert, who is otherwise at a loss for an answer, is considering. In his head, he calculates the number of his customers. Then he says: "so 50 000. Rough estimate."
At the beginning, it was purely a repair business, and at some point the orthopedic part was added – "but it was shoe sales that brought the success," recalls the 54-year-old.
And that seems to prove him right. After all, he can’t just rely on his loyal regular customers from all over the region. Visitors have also come from Saudi Arabia and Peru to buy comfortable shoes from him. Does he have an explanation for this? "No, not at all," he replies good-humoredly. Probably over time the word simply got around that his name and his business stand for quality and good craftsmanship.
At 22 after the fall of the wall in langen
And yet everything could have turned out quite differently. Shortly after the wall came down, the 22-year-old moved to Hesse. If the employment office had had its way, he would simply have joined the automotive supplier continental. But uwe damm didn’t want that. "I said, no, I want to be a shoemaker." and this is it. For 38 years now.
Shoe fashions change from season to season, he says. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. The complaints of the people, however, "actually remain the same," says damm. He has little understanding for trends such as barefoot running. "we are civilized people. Even Oetzi was wearing shoes when he died more than 5,000 years ago," says the salmon with a mischievous grin on his face. What he means by that: "our feet simply need protection when we’re always walking on such hard ground."
Bureaucracy is the biggest challenge
If you ask uwe damm about the greatest challenge of his work, the answer is not the story of a particularly rare foot deformity that he tried to correct orthopedically. Instead, he talks about the crippling bureaucracy he has to deal with every day. There is just as much talk of quality management as of regularly having to prove that he is using the right tools. But the most work is done by the cost estimates for the health insurance companies. "In the past, there was a standard price list for orientation," says damm. Today, he says, each cashier can request his own quote. "I send it by fax, get it back by letter at some point, and then there’s a mistake in it – and it starts all over again," he says, annoyed by the extra work involved. But that doesn’t dampen his passion for "working with people and on people," as he calls his work.
If his plans work out, then retirement beckons him in about 13 years. "As a craftsman, you naturally want a successor," says Damm. But he does not exude confidence. He trained the last apprentice about four years ago, and since then there has been a lull. "But that’s the way it is everywhere in the trade," he sighs. The result: "The baker on the corner will eventually disappear, just like the butcher or the shoemaker."his prediction: "if one day we no longer exist, the city centers will be empty."his appeal to counter the phenomenon of desolation that can be observed in many places: "support the small craft businesses – in doing so, you help the neighborhood and contribute to the liveliness of the city."