Demise of the Barossa Bootmaker

barossa history

Demise of the Barossa Bootmaker

words by
luke rothe
>> Nuriootpa Main Street c.1940s showing Bootmaker Riedel’s substantial home & workshop in the foreground.

Shoes today can be more of a fashion statement than a practical item of footwear – unlike the boots and shoes worn by the Barossa pioneers. Among the settlers were numerous tradespeople keen to establish business in the area, one being the Bootmaker.

Boots and shoes were important because walking was free and often the only mode of travel in the early years. Walking beyond the Barossa to Adelaide or further to conduct business was not unusual.

Most small Barossa towns had their own Bootmaker to make, sell and repair shoes.

Mr JG Pfeiffer, a bootmaker at Moculta from 1873, sometimes prepared his own boot leather using hides bought from local farmers, but usually leather was bought direct from a local tannery.

In the 1860s, August Riedel started a boot and shoe making business in the main street of Nuriootpa. A 1940s photo shows the substantial Riedel home with six large pillars and battlement parapet around the roof edge – all removed during 1980s renovations. Attached to the side of the house was August’s workshop (currently Nuri Indian Takeaway).

Soon after the Riedel property was sold in 1918, Mr. C Thiele opened the ‘Cash Boot Palace’. Interestingly, he advertised ‘New stock from Melbourne’, suggesting he was a retailer of boots, rather than a maker.

‘The Big Boot Store’ of Mr B Riebe at Tanunda advertised in 1915, a ‘Large Assortment of Imported and Colonial Boots & Shoes’ but also ‘Boots & Shoes Made to Order’, showing a mix of both imported and locally made footwear.

>> Edgar Polst, Light Pass, c1908 wearing traditional lace up leather boots
>> Ron Weidenbach Shoe Store, Nuriootpa, c.1970
>> Interior of the Ron Weidenbach Shoe Store, c.1970.
>> Cash Boot Palace advert c.1919

Times were changing in the 1900s, and the demise of locally made shoes was inevitable. A 1927 receipt of Mr. JA Maywald of Nuriootpa simply states ‘Repairs Neatly Executed’, rather than stating his actual trade of Bootmaker.

General stores and hardware shops also sold footwear. Around 1931, Schrapel’s Emporium at Tanunda advertised the ‘Sale of 1000 Pairs of Boots & Shoes’, including fashionable ‘Ladies High Grade Pumps’ & ‘Men’s Genuine Welts’.

Ron Weidenbach returned to Nuriootpa after serving in the RAAF during WWII. In 1948 he opened a small shoe store on the main street to service a growing Barossa population. The old shop was fully renovated in the late 1960s to become a modern glass-fronted showroom featuring tiled side pillars, window boxes with trailing plants and an aluminium clad cantilever verandah (currently Thorpy’s). The interior featured modern customer seating, which was upholstered with textured vinyl in red, blue, green, and yellow.

The store also became an agency for Home Aid dry cleaning and ventured into selling sporting equipment. The business lasted 30 years, being sold in 1978 to John & Helen Harris.

Mr JHA Schultz, originally a Tanunda coachbuilder, opened the Tanunda Boot Store on the corner of Murray Street and John Street around 1930. The façade features glossy blue tiles and remains relatively unchanged (currently Vino Lokal). After over 60 years trading by numerous owners the Tanunda Shoe Store closed in the 1990s, signaling the end of a traditional boot and shoe store in the Barossa.

>> Selection of Barossa Bootmaker receipts from the early 1900s.

Luke Rothe

Local Barossa historian
and enthusiast
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