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Ex-Graffiti Artist Now Makes Unique, Colorful Kicks

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(credit: CBS) Natalie Nyhus
Natalie Nyhus joined the WCCO-TV team in January of 2011. She repor...
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WACONIA, Minn. (WCCO) — All this week, WCCO This Morning has been turning to local companies for unique gift ideas. Today, they had a little something for the sole. Shoe soles, that is.

A former graffiti artist is now a master cobbler who is making colorful kicks in Waconia. His specialty is making what’s old new again.

Tamas Pomazi, or “Zen” as he’s known, sees shoes differently.

“Everybody starts with the shoe on top, this is how you look at it,” Pomazi said. “We never look at a shoe [from the bottom].”

A former graffiti artist, Zen is turning shoes upside down and slapping them with color, much like he used to do to walls with paint.

“My idea was to start with the bottom and then work up,” Pomazi said.

Zen is a master cobbler. His business, Greenwich Vintage, is to break down and rebuild classic shoes, creating what he calls a “grown man’s sneaker.” Greenwich Vintage’s CFO Max Miller handles the business side of thing.

“This gentleman is the master of finding rare gems and restoring them,” Miller said.

“My father died in 2005 and left me wingtips,” Pomazi said. “They were awful on my feet, and my feet were dying. I thought what can I do?”

He ripped them apart, and started over. And a business was born.

A Greenwich shoe starts in Zen’s Waconia basement where he mixes and pours custom colored soles from scratch.

“The cooler colors that I do, and the more exotic stuff that I do, harkens back to graffiti stuff,” Pomazi said.

Then it’s off to Papa’s Shoe Repair downtown Waconia where he breaks down, then rebuilds the shoes.

“I saw a hole in the market in the shoe design and that there was a need for what I do,” Pomazi said. Arguably the most difficult step is stitching the shoe together.

“This is where we cut the men from the boys,” Pomazi said. “In that process I get great satisfaction. … Maybe one day I walk down the street and someone I don’t know is wearing my shoes. I ask where they got them and they say this guy make them, and I say. That’s me!”

Pomazi says that hasn’t happened yet, but he can’t wait. And his ultimate goal is to get a pair on the president.

A fully assembled, a pair of his colored-sole shoes usually costs $225 to $275. If you don’t have old shoes in need of resoling, Greenwich Vintage can source a vintage pair.

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