I am certain that nobody else in this athletic-shoe-loving world cares about this but me, but it's getting harder and harder for New York to get a shine on its shoes. I recently noted the disappearance of Star Shine off Times Square. There is no place to get a shoe shine in the Theatre District now. Grand Central has always been a hive of shoe shine stands; businessmen on the way to the office or important meetings have long been the clientele. But I noticed the other day that one of the long-standing shine joints—the one down the 45th Street Passage, I forget the name—had decamped.
Soon after, I passed down 32nd Street alongside the Empire State Building and was reminded that Louie Shoe Rebuilders—a longtime resident in the skyscraper—had left a couple years back, replaced by some anonymous food chain. One of the things that distinguishes New York from other cities—aside from the extensive subway system, and swarm of yellow cabs, the numerous food carts, the ubiquitous newsstands, the breakneck pace of the pedestrians—was that you could easily get a shoe shine, wherever you were (at least in Manhattan). This aspect is disappearing. Along with it, is yet another avenue in which a small businessman can get a leg up in this expensive town.