Dover’s sole man closing shop to focus on music

ames Napier, owner of Capital Shoe Repair and Leather Work in downtown Dover, plays his beloved guitar “Sugar” in his shop last week. He’ll be closing the store next month to head out on a three-year concert tour under his stage name Lashaade. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

ames Napier, owner of Capital Shoe Repair and Leather Work in downtown Dover, plays his beloved guitar “Sugar” in his shop last week. He’ll be closing the store next month to head out on a three-year concert tour under his stage name Lashaade. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

DOVER — If the shoe fits, wear it.

That seems to describe James Napier’s life perfectly.

Four years ago, the Cincinnati native opened Capital Shoe Repair and Leather Work on Loockerman Street in downtown Dover.

But long before he was a shoe repairman, he was a musician, earning him accolades throughout his career.

He even has a day named after him In Cincinnati. April 26 is James Napier Day. He, along with several of his musical friends, such as L.A. Reid and Bootsy Collins, were honored in 2003 for their contributions to the city.

“‘We Must Come Together’ is a song that I wrote for the state of Ohio when they had the riots there,” said the 55-year-old Mr. Napier.

“I heard about what was going on, so I decided to write that song. It was played a lot over there during that time to try and calm some of the tension down.”

Since opening his Dover shop, Mr. Napier, whose stage name is Lashaade, has never stopped touring. In fact, he plans to close down his business for good on Nov. 21 to focus solely on his music.

“I’ll be on tour for three years starting in April,” Mr. Napier said.

“My father was musician and a shoe repairman. He taught me the trade when I was about 14, so I could support himself and my love for music. I wanted a change, which I why I opened the shop.”

Prior to opening his business, Mr. Napier was still doing about 20 to 30 concerts a year. But once his manager passed away in 2007 it slowed down a bit.

“Promoters kept asking me to go back on tour, so I decided I wanted to get back out there,” Mr. Napier said. “It’s a great opportunity for me to go back out there.”

“I’m going to close down this shop and go on the road. I’m going to be on the road all the time. Everything will be entertainment now.”

He has recorded several soul and gospel albums, re-recording songs by artists like Luther Vandross and Sam Cooke.

Mr. Napier’s first record came out in 1988 called “Come Sinner Come”.

“It’s a gospel song,” Mr. Napier said. “That kind of put me on the map a little bit.”

“That experience was one of the best times of my life. When I was 23 I met MC Hammer for the first time and we’ve been friends ever since.”

Mr. Napier said that when he toured during his younger days, he used to do a 20- to 30-minute set of his own songs combined with his own renditions of “Summertime,” “Sad Mood” and “You Send Me” by Mr. Cooke.

He has no plans of changing his routine.

“Those are the songs that people want to hear while I’m out there,” Mr. Napier said. “People love when I do those Sam Cooke songs.”

Even though he will be on tour for three years, he’s not worried about being rusty at all.

“I’ve been prepared since 1988,” Mr. Napier said. “I’ve basically had the same band since I started.

“The first part of the year we will rehearse and then it will be time to get back out there.

“I even practice during my downtime here in the shop. When I’m not busy I take out my guitar and sing a little.”

He even teaches music lessons in his shop.

“I have about 23 students,” Mr. Napier said. “I’ve been doing that for a couple of years now.”

Jasmine Bullock, 25, said he helped rekindle her musical interest she had when she was younger.

“I started playing the piano in the ninth grade when I attended a school in Newark,” Ms. Bullock said.

“I was only playing it for a year and then when I transferred to Lake Forest High School they didn’t have it there.”

She continued to play the few songs she knew over the years.

Ms. Bullock was introduced to Mr. Napier about five months ago by her mother, who takes guitar lessons from him as well.

“I’m a lot better now,” Ms. Bullock said. “I can play a couple full out songs. When I first met him I played him Alicia Keys’ ‘If I Ain’t Got You’.

“I could only play the beginning of it and he showed me how to find songs based on the sound from the different songs.”

Prior to meeting Mr. Napier, she didn’t know anything about his musical background.

“We started talking one day and I was amazed,” Ms. Bullock said. “He inspired me. I felt since he was so accomplished that I can do it too.”
Mr. Napier said he doesn’t know if he wants to get back in the shoe repair business once his singing days are over, as he hopes to motivate people who aspire to be artists.

“I’m just moving forward to do the best I can to support other artists,” Mr. Napier said.

“That’s more important to me than anything else because I’ve had my fun. Now it’s time to for me to motivate and help them move into the right direction.”

He plans to do that with Ms. Bullock.

“I have some things I’m working on,” Mr. Napier said. “I’m working on a new album and I want her to help with the production.”
Mr. Napier continues to be excited about the next chapter in his life.

“With the shoe business I might not have time for it,” Mr. Napier said.

“(Producer) L.A. Reid is one of the baddest drummers that you can ever imagine. He was really hoping to be a great drummer for an artist.”

“He didn’t get what he wanted, but he ended up being one of the biggest names in the music industry.  At this point if that’s the direction that God wants to give me. then I would take that.”

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