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Downtown shoe store owner dies, city steps in to help

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The owner of a longtime Indianapolis family business has died, and now downtown stakeholders are fighting to help keep Cento Shoes open.

Tony Cento died last week. When News 8 stopped in the shop Tuesday to talk to the Centos, we overheard a phone conversation with a customer. Tony Cento’s brother Michael Cento explained Tony Cento had passed away and the woman on the other line kept saying “No, it can’t be true.”

Michael Cento quickly put her feelings ahead of his own and responded.

“But I’m going to stay and run the business, you know I was the one with him and I’m going to be here,” he said.

Michael and Tony Cento worked in the store together alongside their father, who started the business 50 years ago. When he died in 2013, Tony Cento took over with his brother’s help.

Michael Cento tells News 8 he learned a lot from his brother and he knows he has big shoes to fill.

“Living up to Tony is pretty hard because he was a great man, but it’s my chance now to say, ‘Hey, that’s Tony’s brother and I’m damn proud of that.’ I don’t need to be Michael or Guerino. I’m Tony’s brother and because of that, I will do this,” he said.

In a similar way the Centos helped in thousands of shoe emergencies, the city stepped in to help the family keep the business going. Downtown Indy, Inc. started a GoFundMe to help the family keep the store open.

The goal was initially set for $30,000, a number it quickly surpassed.

“The least we could do is help bring the other downtown stakeholders together to support those businesses that have been here for such a long time particularly when they’re in need,” Downtown Indy, Inc. President Sherry Seiwert said.

Now, the Centos will step into the next chapter. This one Michael Cento will carry out with his son Paul Cento.

“It means everything to me and there’s a big piece of this place inside my heart and everything I do and it just made me a better person to be involved in this,” Paul Cento said.

Michael Cento said the support was the push he needed.

“I can hear him telling me, ‘You can do this, you just got to believe in yourself,’ because my brother was my biggest cheerleader,'” Michael Cento said.

The family plans to re-open the store sometime next week.

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