City of dirty shoes?


July 05, 2000|By Antero Pietila

IT IS well worth recording that 15-year-old Ivan Potts started working at Pennsylvania Station's Chattanooga Shoeshine stand last week.

He is assisting his grandfather, who has a thriving business but was unable to find willing help. The money is good - a shoeshine costs $4, boots $7 - but Baltimore job-seekers frowned on all that brushing and polishing.

Add shoeshine stands to the list of endangered Baltimoreana. So many have disappeared in recent years that getting shoes shined can be a real challenge.

Lexington Market, for example, calls itself "world famous." But it lost a shoeshine stand a year ago in a dispute that had nothing to do with supply and demand.

A veteran shoeshine operator simply wanted to put up a campaign sign for his favorite mayoral candidate. The market said no. The man quit in a huff.

A professional cleaning and polish job may still be had at the Inner Harbor's Gallery mall and some downtown hotels. In general, though, shoeshine stands are becoming difficult to find downtown. The reasons: More and more people are wearing casual shoes and death has robbed the city of many of its shoeshine veterans.

This is not a happy trend in a city which hopes to acquire a world-class status. Even though many offices have become quite tolerant about dressing-down, certain situations still require impeccable grooming. Clean and shiny shoes are part of it.

Will young Mr. Potts stay with shoe polishing or move on to some more illustrious career? Time will tell. But his appearance at Penn Station runs counter to a trend. Tip him well if he spiffs up your tired old shoes.

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