The cats were too sleepy to vouch for anything, but Milburn says they see him repair an average of 60 pairs of shoes during his five-and-a-half-day work week.
"It adds up to more than 3,000 pairs a year, and that figure doesn't include the horse bridles and saddles I also repair," he says, adding that he has repaired every imaginable kind of men's, women's and child's shoe, from loafers to wingtips, from high heels to low heels, and from work boots to tap dance shoes.
Low-quality footwear keeps him in business
During his 25 years in business, Milburn says work has remained fairly steady but the quality of footwear has declined.
"Hidden in these new shoes are cardboard and paper," he says. "Just like in the manufacture of cars, there's too many corners being cut in shoe making these days, but I don't cut any corners when I repair these shoes. I use only the best quality materials, incuding prime leather."
While the quality of materials and workmanship that goes into shoes may have slipped in recent years, the cost of supplies certainly hasn't, says Milburn.
"The cost of this little gallon can of glue is $83," he says while he slathers some of the product on the bottom of a shoe, adheres a leather sole to it and then trims the leather pad to fit the shoe.
Cobbling is his second career, but Milburn can trace his interest in it and love for it back to his father.
"I grew up on farm in Washington County, but my dad, W.H. Milburn, operated a shoe repair business in Springfield," he says. "He went on to open a shop in Harrodsburg and sold his business to one of my brothers, Billie, who's now deceased also."
Was a teacher first
Milburn delayed his entry into the family business for several years. He and his twin brother, Gilbert, both chose teaching as their professions.
"I taught grades 1 through 8 in mostly one-room school houses, mostly in eastern Kentucky, in Pikeville and Louisa, for example," he says. "In the meantime, Gilbert went on to teach and serve as a school principal and then a school system superintendent."
Milburn retired from teaching in 1983, but he quickly grew tired of retirement.
"I found out that you can hit just so many golf balls and catch just so many fish," he says. "I was bored."
Milburn found that cobbling would be the perfect antidote to his boredom. He opened his first shoe repair shop in Liberty, then moved to Danville. The Beatty-Russell shop, which he opened in 2003, is the third location for The Cobbler's Bench.
"I work by myself and at my own pace," he says. "I try to give each pair of shoes as much time, skill and quality materials as I can."
As much as Milburn loves repairing shoes, he enjoys his spare time as well.
"I like to go to sporting contests and I love to read books, especially books about history," he says.
He and wife Bonnie, a pathology department secretary at Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center, have a daughter and grandsons in California.
"Our grandsons are very special to us," he says, showing off photos of them.
Would either of them be interested in cobbling?
"No, they have other interests," says Milburn. "When I close this shop, that will be the end of the Milburn family cobbling tradition."