I have walked by the Star Shoe Shop on Bleecker Street, near Crosby Street right by the Two Boots pizza, for decades and not quite grasped how old it is until I went in recent and got my shoes shined. Ready? It's been there more than 70 years. Unbelievable.
There's not much inside to betray that level of age, though if you peak back where the small bathroom is, you'll see some ceramic floor tiles that look fairly ancient. Otherwise, the feel is very 1970s. Fake wood paneling, standard issue wall clock, a small television set embedded into the wall behind the counter. And a couple photographs featuring the shop as a backdrop: one of an unidentified CBGB band from the club's golden age; and one of Christopher Walken back when he was young, handsome and not yet too weird.
The photos reveal that the neon sign in the window has not changed in the last four decades. I'd guess the same holds true for the yellow sign hanging outside, as well, since it features a phone number without an area code.
The world inside is very old Village. Vagrants, drifters, grifters and neighborhood eccentrics seem to recognize that they will not be given the bum's rush from the accented old men who run this cluttered shop. While I was there, a grizzled old rummy with a three-day growth and a cig hanging from his mouth came in and tried to sell a few items from out of a large trash bag. The owner seemed to be entertaining his offers. Clearly the man had made some sales in the past.
The man who shined my shoes took a lot of care and time on my zapatos. Glad I wasn't in a hurry.