Nice people can be hard to find, but patrons of Garden City Shopping Centre don’t have to look too far for a helping hand.
Tony Poredos, a retired flour mill worker, military man and apprentice shoemaker spends a lot of his time at the mall.
On this day he is sitting in a foldable chair at the desk at Stitch City Tailor, guarding the store while the tailor takes a washroom break. Hunched over a pair of black shoes, Poredos, in a light jacket adorned with a single, bright red poppy, looks up at a pair of customers and says,
"She will be back shortly."
Yen Pho, one of the tailors who works at Stitch City, says Poredos walks around the mall, asking sales associates if they need any help.
"Every night at about seven o’clock, Tony walks by here. Whenever the store is very busy, he just stays outside," Pho says. "But when the store is quiet, he asks me, ‘Do you need to go to the washroom? Do you need to go somewhere and take a break? I could watch the store for you.’ He’s a very kind man."
Poredos came to Winnipeg in 1968 from Slovenia with his wife. He has two sons, one in Winnipeg and one in Regina. Back in Europe, he worked at a flour mill for 30 years until it closed down. He then joined the military for three years and became an apprentice shoemaker for three years after that. When he came to Canada, he continued making shoes from scratch.
"When I came here, I worked in a different place," Poredos explains. "I worked with another guy. I worked with him for 18 years making shoes."
Not only do people at the mall ask Poredos to fix their shoes, they even contact him at his home.
"Lots of people come to my house to get their shoes fixed," Poredos says. "It’s my hobby."
And it’s a hobby for which Poredos refuses any monetary reward.
"They ask me, I do," he states simply.
"When he helps me, sometimes I give him cookies which my niece bakes," Pho says.
Poredos sometimes comes to the mall by car but usually by public transportation.
"I come twice a day," he says. "When I got time, you know. I come for coffee. I have lots of friends here. Kills the time."