A presence familiar to generations of visitors to downtown Canton is gone, but will long be remembered Mayor Bill Grant and others say.
Billy Moss, owner of Canton Shoe Shop and a skilled cobbler, died on Jan. 29 at the age of 87.
Grant met Moss for the first time in 1996 when he moved to Canton. Grant said that Moss was a legend downtown, and that few cities, if any, could claim an authentic cobbler among their merchants.
“His craftsmanship was in a league of its own,” Grant said. “More than his service and skill, we will miss his indelible spirit. Over the years, I took many items to be repaired: shoes, boots, luggage, messenger bags and more. I always got the same answer, ‘I don’t have the equipment to fix that,’ but as I walked away he would stop me and say, ‘If you want to leave it here, I will see what I can do.’ He repaired each item flawlessly, every time.”
Moss owned Canton Shoe Shop for almost 66 years, opening the shop in 1955 with his brother-in-law Avery Vrock after the Cantex Corduroy factory burned in June 1955. Moss worked at the factory, cutting grooves into the corduroy. After the factory burned and he opened Canton Shoe Shop, he learned about the shoe repair business from his brother-in-law and eventually took the shop over.
His wife, Ruth Moss, said that while the business was not at the same location the whole time, it did stay in downtown Canton. The shop is currently located at 103 Church St., near The Salty Mule, where he ran the shop until his health began declining late last year. His granddaughter, Brittany Moss, said that even with his declining health, he still visited the shop and spent a couple of hours a day giving out shoes and working on what he could. She added that he was the type of person to be there for both his family and customers, no matter what.
“He was a very humble person, always putting everyone else before him,” Brittany Moss said. “A lot of people would question how he could make a living off of the shop, because a lot of times when people would bring in their shoes to him, he wouldn’t charge much. My grandmother would tell me that he always said other people have to make a living too. He was always there for his family, as well as his customers. If he didn’t think he could do something, he would always try anyway to help that customer.”
Brittany Moss said that her grandfather was talented in many aspects, with sewing being one of his many talents. She said that he sewed thousands of patches for school jackets, including hers, and fixed countless pocketbooks, among many other items.
Of the many skills Billy Moss had in his repertoire, those close to him say his kindness, fait, and humility were his defining qualities.
Mid-City Pharmacy owner and friend Billy Cagle said that Moss was a very good man who was respected by many, and loved by many more. Family friend Kim Russo commended his work ethic and determination, and echoed the sentiment that everyone who met Moss loved him.
“I may be biased after being married to him for 68 years, but he was a very good man,” Ruth Moss said. “He was a great husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather.”
Brittany Moss said that plans for the future of the shop are currently undecided, but there are some ideas to either have it passed on to the right person, or donate the machinery to History Cherokee as a way to remember Billy Moss’ legacy.