The story begins with the description of a down-to-earth boot shop, belonging to the Gessler brothers – who were not merely traders but craftsmen skilled in the art of fine boot-making. Once the narrator went into the shop to order a pair of Russian leather boots and was presented with a fine piece of golden brown leather, which would be used to make his boot fitted to perfection. This one time, the narrator complained of his boots having creaked. The complaint was met with flummoxed silence, after which Mr. Gessler asked the narrator to send back the shoes for fixing, adding that he would not be charged for the boots if they were beyond repair.
During another one of his visits to the Gessler shop, the narrator absent-mindedly wore boots that he had bought from a large boot firm. Mr. Gessler recognised at once that the boots worn by the narrator were not the fruit of his craftsmanship, pointing out the flaws in its making. It is at this juncture that Mr. Gessler reveals to the narrator how difficult it is for him and his brother to sustain their small business of bespoke hand-made artisan boots during times when mass production and relentless advertising were tugging away all clients. The next time the narrator visits the sore was after two years to find that the store size had been reduced to half in order to curb expenses. And during the next visit, he found that the elder Gessler brother was dead, not being able to bear the losses the business was incurring. The narrator ordered several pairs that time, and the quality of the finished boots were better than ever. The next visit the narrator paid to the shop was after a year, and this time around Mr. Gessler looked frail and old. This time around, the order took longer to come, but the quality was even better. A week later, the narrator wished to pay Mr. Gessler a visit to tell him how wonderful his boots were. However, upon reaching the store he found that the shop had been occupied by another company, and that Mr. Gessler was dead – having died of slow starvation. The owner of the new store reveals that during his last days, Mr. Gessler spent all his time laboriously making boots, hardly eating and spending all the money on rent and leather. This news saddens the narrator deeply, and leaves the store with tears in his eyes.