For several weeks, TAKE SHOES TO BE FIXED has been on my to-do list. So when I walked by my go-to spot, Liberty Shoe Repair on 18th Street, and saw a man taping a sheet of paper onto the metal gate over the door, I was surprised.
“Wait, did this close?” I asked him.
“Two weeks ago,” he said. Then launched into a stream of curse words, all directed at Liberty’s owner, who’d suddenly closed the shop after 21 years. The man pointed to his sign: SHOE-SHINE BY JUNE (“GLASS MAN”) @ BLUE SOLE SHOES 1805 CHESTNUT (NEXT TO CONTINENTAL).
His name is Edward Smith, Jr., and he shined shoes at Liberty for 13 years. He was laid off in the most unceremonious of manners: He learned that he was out of a job when he showed up to work one day and found the store cleared out. June, as he's called (also "Glass Man" and "Junior"), enjoyed a bit of Philly fame, and nabbed shoe-shining gigs at Blue Sole Shoes on Chestnut Street (Monday through Friday, 9:30am to 7pm) and Boyds (he starts after Labor Day, and will be there on Saturdays from 10am to 6pm).
Not only did he not tell his employees he was packing up shop, he also neglected to mention it to his customers—many of whom had left shoes there for repairs.
"All the shoes are gone," June said. "He took 35 people's shoes." Together we peered through the gated-over window. All the shelves, formerly filled with brown-bagged heels waiting to be picked up, were empty.
"I had some boots there to be repaired. I went to pick them up over the weekend and he was gone and the boots were gone. I heard he went back to Paraguay," said Darnell Monts, an employee at Blue Sole Shoes.
Perhaps I should've seen it coming. I'd taken three pairs of shoes there about a week before the owner closed up shop. He was gruff and angry: "I can't do these 'til Monday," he said, and shoved them back to me over the counter. I was irritated, but now I'm relieved. I'd be on a plane tracking him to Paraguay if I found out he'd made off with my heart-print Mary Janes. In the meantime, I'm visiting June at Blue Sole Shoes—and taking my precious heels to Superior on 15th. I suggest you do the same.