Las Vegas shoe shiners endure, always put a polish on chic | national news
LAS VEGAS (AP) – Keith Bryant’s first shift as a shoe shine on the Las Vegas Strip more than 20 years ago produced about $ 150 in tips over three hours.
He loved the buzz of activity and interaction with visitors to the Sahara that weekend evening and was addicted to the profession. He would follow in his father’s footsteps in the industry.
“People sometimes play with me and ask me if I’m going to make whatever they wear shine, but I will make anything shine,” Bryant, a longtime Select Shoe employee, told the Las Vegas Sun. “I will also make a leather wallet or a belt. If it’s faux leather, it doesn’t matter, I will. I will do what I have to do and I will adapt to everything.
As Bryant sat at his booth inside the Aria waiting for his next customer, he couldn’t help but recall another era of commerce. He didn’t talk about the Rat Pack era – although it was certainly a time when men would be more inclined to shine shoes than today – but rather a time in the late 1990s.
“People dressed a lot more to come to Vegas, man,” he said. “People are more laid back now. I had a Saturday night recently where no one was sitting.
Part of the drop is due to the convention industry and international travel still recovering from pandemic closures. For example, visitors to Australia often wear cowboy boots that they liked to shine, Bryant said.
Bryant, a native of Las Vegas, spends much of his time at a rented booth inside a men’s room near the Aria lobby or at a booth in New York-New York.
Select Shoe also rents space at the Las Vegas Convention Center, the Golden Nugget, and the Venetian Convention and Expo Center. Another company, Goodfellows Shoeshine & Accessories, has a presence at several properties, including McCarran International Airport.
Shelley Bonner Carson, owner of Goodfellows, said business has been slow lately for his company as well. In addition to its booths at McCarran – in Airport Lobbies C and D – Goodfellows has space at several resorts on the Strip and at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
“We survived COVID-19 and we are still making shoes,” Bonner Carson said. “Summers are generally terrible for us, in part because people are very laid back, often wearing sandals and tennis shoes. We hope that the conventions will come back in full force this fall and in 2022. ”
Bonner Carson said there was always interest in the service. This is evidenced by the fact that representatives from Resorts World recently requested the rental of space for a shoe shine booth, she said.
Everyone seems to be scrambling for customers.
If Bryant spots someone wearing shoes that need to be waxed, he immediately speaks up. Take Christopher Helmick, who was in Michigan town for the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics conference at Aria and wore a pair of leather dress shoes.
As Helmick glanced at Bryant’s booth – which consisted of two customer chairs and two drawers that housed everything from a horsehair brush to various boxes of shoe polish, wax and products leather conditioners – the shoe polisher got to work.
“Do you want a shine? Bryant asked.
Helmick did it. The conference represented his first substantial travel outing since the start of the pandemic. He wanted to look good.
Later, Bryant will reveal that he focused on Helmick because of his shoes – which Bryant always notices – and the convention thong he wore.
Helmick’s Shard took about five minutes and cost $ 12.
Scott Hansen, owner of Select Shoe, said business was slow, but he doesn’t think it will be a fatal blow to the industry because “there will always be people who care about how they look.”
“When you meet someone, you first look at their hand, because you reach out to shake them, and you do once on them starting with the shoes,” he added.
Hansen said shoe-shining in Las Vegas, which has long depended on Congress, began to decline during the recession following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“Until September 11, we were gangbusters,” Hansen said. “After that, the flights were canceled, the conventions were canceled and when they came back people started to dress up. Congress attendees have not changed that since. People always wore costumes at a show, but they don’t do that as much. “
When he started with the business in the 1990s, Hansen said most clients wore dress shoes or cowboy boots. Now, he said, all the different types of shoes are covered.
“We make athletic shoes, suede, oil tanned leathers, we do it all,” Hansen said. “In our current society, however, it seems people will just buy a new pair of shoes if they need a shine. We have become a disposable society. As a society, we are also becoming more laid back in general. This was reinforced by the pandemic. “
The Shiners are also working on guest drop-off shoes, which include items from celebrities and athletes.
Bryant proudly says he has shined the shoes of people in all states, countless countries and some celebrities, including Drew Carey and former Dallas Cowboys quarterback “Dandy” Don Meredith.
“It was fun because I’m a die-hard Cowboys fan,” said Bryant.
And, now, during the crisis, he is eager to add more memories to a long career. “I’ll do whatever I have to do,” said Bryant. “I just hope conventions come back in full force because that’s how I eat.”
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