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“The shop is what keeps me going”



By Sun Advocate

Driving down main street in Price one notices the neon sign above Besso’s shoe shop

Domnick Besso will be 87 years young on December 15 of this year. He has worked as a shoemaker for 71 years�and is still working!
I recently visited Domnick at his shoe shop. When I entered the shop, he was working on a pair of shoes. When he saw me, he walked to the counter with his eyeglasses lowered on his nose, and he looked at me through the upper part of his glasses, with his head lowered. Then he recognized me. I told him that I didn’t want to disturb him from his work and he said “I am never disturbed to talk to my old friends.”
I said “Domnick, are you ever going to retire?” His answer was a little brisk, as though I was intruding on his privacy. “Let me tell you,” He said. “This shop is what keeps me going and I won’t quit until it is absolutely necessary. And it isn’t necessary yet! I saw that he was a bit frail, so I changed the subject.
He enjoyed talking about his family and told me that his parents immigrated from Northern Italy in the early 1900’s. He told me that his father James met his mother, Martina, in Italy, where they were married. There were few jobs in his town in Italy.
“When your friends tell you where there is work, that is where you go,” he said. “So I came to the United States and went to work in Rock Springs, Wyo. ”
He left Martina in Italy until he earned enough money to send for her. He had worked in the coal mines for a while, then apprenticed as a shoemaker. He sent for Martina. Domnick said his mother and father later moved to Price, and in 1929 his father was able to have the Besso Shoe Shop built. Domnick said his mother had four sons of which Domnick was number four.

Domnick Besso still at work repairing shoes after 71 years in the same business in Price. He says, “This shop is what keeps me going.

Domnick was married on July 5, 1961. They had three daughters. His mother was very determined that their children have good educations, and all three of his daughters graduated from the University of Utah and found satisfying jobs. He said he never had a son to name after his father James, so he named one of the daughters “Jamie” Domnick’s father died in 1948, but prior to ‘his death, he turned the complete shoe shop over to Domnick. At age six, Domnick was given the job of sweeping out the shoe shop. At age nine he worked after school and on weekends.
Domnick has a memory that would put most students to shame. He has a great love and respect for his customers, as they have for him. He is a good listener, and some of his customers walk away feeling better after having unloaded their problems on him. Domnick is a good talker and sometimes it is almost impossible to get a word in “edgewise.”
He could tell you who owned which properties many years ago and how the ownership of many of the properties changed hands over the years.
The interaction he gets from his friends can be illustrated by his 80th birthday party which his three daughters gave for him at the Elks. Domnick said the party was a highlight of his life. Domnick is kind, gentle and talkative. When I drive down main street I cannot help but notice the neon sign above his shop, one of the few existing.
He had been out of town for a few days to have a physical examination and to have his eyes examined. When I went in, he looked at me over the counter with those blue eyes beaming and a smile as wide as a mile. He said “guess what?” I said “What.” He told me that his physical went well, except that the doctor told him that he should do more walking. He was still looking at me as though he were concealing a secret.
“Is there something else you want to tell me, I asked. “Yes” he, said. “The optometrist who examined my eyes told me that my vision was 20-20. He was very happy.
As I was preparing to leave, I noticed a plaque on his counter, which read: In recognition of his long standing commitment to the business community of Carbon County, State of Utah, we hereby express our appreciation to Domnick Besso. Presented by Realtors, Inc. and the members of the Chamber of Commerce, Nov. 15, 2001.
Domnick has a longtime good friend in Dr. Clyde Larsen, dentist, who takes time to come to the shoe shop to see him and help him to lift heavy objects or to do some straightening out of the shop. Dr. Larsen is truly a philanthropist who cares enough to help his friend.

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