D&J Glove Repair welcomes the opportunity to bring back the glory days of your baseball glove.
“As far as I know, our repair business is the only stand-alone shop in the U.S.,” said Jimmy Lonetti of D&J Glove, the storefront business in the Longfellow neighborhood that he and son, Dom, opened in September 2022. “If you can catch with it, I’ll fix it.”
Jimmy’s unique shop draws in ball players from Little League to Major League who are in search of professional repair that gives a battered glove a second chance.
Gloves take a beating off the field as well as on it.
“My best customers are dogs,” Jimmy said, alluding to the chewy texture and delectable taste of leather mitts.
At age eight, Jimmy Lonetti took his first look at the Minnesota Twins when his dad brought him to watch the team in action against the Boston Red Sox. Jimmy was hooked. His father made the day even better when he bought drawn likenesses of seven Twins starters, now mounted on a wall of the shop.
A former Little League player, Jimmy played short stop. “In those days, every kid had a glove; it was a given,” he said. “You could buy gloves at a hardware store.”
The shop at 3742 Minnehaha Ave. took 12 years to reach fruition. Jimmy honed the trade in his basement and garage, with an eye on his future business. Now gloves of baseball greats hang in rows: in another spot, gloves of Little Leaguers and other clients wait to return to action.
Jimmy is no stranger to lacings and glue, fixtures in both glove and shoe repair. His paternal grandfather – also Jimmy – immigrated from southern Italy and eventually owned a shoe repair shop in St. Paul. Young Jimmy followed the Twins but didn’t put gloves and the possibility of business together for decades.
Today he works with leather that’s tougher than it was in his grandfather’s day, with cows moving to market more quickly due to hormones. Their hides don’t have time to mature as in earlier times.
A 1930s Singer sewing machine, similar to the one that Jimmy’s paternal grandfather used, handles multiple layers of leather at the shop. Bert, Jimmy’s maternal grandfather, always put a humorous twist on catching: “I used this glove to catch grenades during World War II,” he would say.
Fans will find Minnesota Twins lore, as told through period photos, baseballs autographed by luminaries, schedules, scorecards, placemats, yards of colorful laces, vintage slides of Met Stadium, a radio that broadcasts Twins’ games live and much more.
The shop caught the eye of Dick Stigman, Twins’ pitcher from Nimrod, Minn. and others: the son of former Twins’ manager, Paul Molitor; a bullpen catcher who told Francisco Alverez, catcher for the New York Mets, about D&J; many followers of Jimmy on Twitter.
Sentiment may bring sons and daughters seeking a heartfelt gift such as a restored glove for dad on a birthday or Father’s Day. Parents of future ball players arrive with kids and gloves in tow. There are hand-held Mattel games to play and a gumball machine that accepts quarter.
There’s also a Minnesota music component in this business. In homage to Paul Westerberg and The Replacements – Jimmy’s favorite band – posters, photos, drawings and more ‘Mats memorabilia, fills a space at the rear of the store.
“I could spend 10-11 hours a day here,” said Jimmy, about the delight he takes in work, the ‘Mats music and curious customers.
On his last day of school in 1981, Jimmy was one of the half-dozen friends that skipped school at Tartan School in Oakdale to watch the Twins play their last game at Metropolitan Stadium. Their social studies teacher, Mr. Clyde Deopner, never mentioned their absence. Today, Clyde Deopner is the only official full-time curator in Major League baseball. The two baseball devotees – former teacher/curator and student/glove repairer – have a lot to talk about.
Jimmy’s introduction to Metropolitan Stadium, where the baseball bug bit him, created special memories from 1961-1981. Now at the shop, the radio is tuned to WCC0, the same station on which the Twins games were broadcast in 1961.
In 1992, the Mall of America opened on the site of the former Metropolitan Stadium. Now the Twins’ original home plate is enshrined at Nickelodeon Universe in the middle of the MOA.
That’s one peek at the past. But a visit to D&J Glove Repair combines the past with revitalized gloves. And bobbleheads and tales of the Minnesota Twins and much more.