Cento Shoes co-owner dies at 50


Tony Cento of Greenwood, who co-owned Cento Shoes in downtown Indianapolis with his brother, died last Wednesday. He was 50 years old.

Tony Cento

Cento, originally from Indianapolis, started working at the store his father had founded at 33 S. Meridian St. around the time he graduated from Roncalli High School in 1988. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from the Kelly School of Business at Indiana University.

He and his brother, Mike Cento, eventually took over from their father, Paul, who came to Indianapolis in 1971 from Italy, where his family said he mended shoes for Pope Pius XII and made shoes. custom shoes for actress Sophia Loren.

Today, Cento – still located at 33 S. Meridian St. – sells shoes, hats and men’s clothing, and also repairs shoes, jackets, handbags and other leather goods.

In a statement on Twitter, Downtown Indy Inc. said the business community was “saddened by the untimely and tragic death this past week of Tony Cento, the caring and service-minded co-owner of Cento Shoes located near Monument Circle.

The nonprofit advocacy group has launched a GoFundMe page to raise funds to help the Cento family pay for funerals “and other expenses to help support the Cento family business, a beloved and popular staple. longtime downtown Indianapolis.

“Tony and his brother Michael have worked tirelessly to keep their 50-year-old store open and viable in the face of the challenges of this past year, especially for small businesses,” Downtown Indy said on the GoFundMe page.

By 10:15 p.m. Sunday, the effort had raised more than $ 15,000, with donations ranging from $ 15 to $ 2,000.

Like many downtown businesses, Cento Shoes has had a tough time over the past 14 months. When the pandemic hit and customers were not allowed in, Tony Cento started contactless delivery to continue serving them.

The store was also damaged and looted during social unrest last summer. “They smashed one of the windows and they just took a lot of clothes, shirts and hats,” Cento told IBJ of the first night of rioting. The second night “was even worse. That’s when they got three more windows and took just about all the clothes and over half the shoes I had.

At the time, he was worried about the future of the store. “That is, how much can you handle?” he said. “How much can you take before it knocks you out?” But I believe we will get there. You just have to stay strong and take it one day at a time.

The family has a 4 to 8 p.m. visit on Monday at O’Riley Funeral Home, 6107 S. East St. Mass and funeral will begin at 11 a.m. Tuesday at St. Mark’s Catholic Church.

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