Where the shoeshine stand still thrives

Ticker tape and typewriters are long gone from New York's financial district, but this service is going strong, albeit with some twists.

By Aimee Picchi Aug 26, 2013 1:51PM

Men sit reading newspapers as they have their shoes shined in shoe shine store on Avenue of the Americas in New York.If the industrialist John D. Rockefeller visited Wall Street today, he might find reassurance in one constant: the persistence of the shoeshine service. (Rockefeller is linked to his own shoeshine story, with the anecdote that he decided to sell stock in 1929 after a shoeshine boy offered him an investing tip.)


While shoeshine workers might not offer investment advice in today's world of hedge funds and synthetic instruments, they continue to thrive by polishing Wall Street's wingtips, reports The New York Times Deal Book.


The service is so valued that when a shoeshine worker was laid off amid an investment-bank merger, he was recruited by an executive at rival investment firm, The Times noted. That worker, Mauricio Dias, now works at Blackstone Group (BX) and charges $6 for a shoeshine. 


While shoeshine stands still exist throughout New York City, tucked away in landmarks from Rockefeller Center to Grand Central, some changes have come to Wall Street. 


At investment firms ranging from Goldman Sachs (GS) to JPMorgan (JPM), for instance, workers now collect shoes from traders and other employees, then later return them all spiffed-up. The idea is to create efficiency by eliminating the time required to sit at a stand.


Not everyone likes the time-saving strategy. 


"They’ve turned it into a sterile thing," James J. Dunne III, an executive at investment bank Sandler O' Neill & Partners, complained to the newspaper. 


And then there's the sexy shoeshine outfit, Star Shine NYC, which is basically Hooters for people with scuffed-up loafers. The small shop features the "Star Shine Ladies," or female shiners decked out in tank-tops and shorts. 


While sex most likely sells even at a shoeshine stand, where male shiners are the norm, the fact is that demand for the service comes down to Wall Street's combination of nostalgia and vanity. 


"I fondly remember coming out of college and working on Wall Street (NYSE) in the 90's and the shoe shine was something special for a young guy," one reader wrote at The Times. "Maybe a few young people would learn something today in the form of self respect and understanding what is expected of you as a professional."


Follow Aimee Picchi on Twitter at @aimeepicchi.


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1Comment
Aug 27, 2013 10:57AM
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I guess when you are the one setting in the chair looking down on someone having to shine your shoes to feed their families it makes you feel more important.

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