The shoe shine man


Amos Lewis Jr., 86, works on shining a pair of shoes inside of his new store on NW 6th Street. Amos' store has been open for just a week and Amos says business has been good.

BRANDON KRUSE/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, January 3, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 2, 2008 at 4:37 p.m.

If you have a pair of Stacy Adams shoes that have lost their shine, don’t fret about it, just carry them to the only shoe shine man in the area.

Amos Lewis Jr., the owner of Amos’ Shoe Shine Parlor, now at 602 NW 6th St., has been shining shoes for more than 70 years.

“I started out shining shoes when I was a young boy, and when shoes used to be shined for 25 cents,” said Lewis, 86, who grew up in Panama City. “Every barber shop in Panama City used to have a shoe shine man. Boys used to carry their shoe boxes around with them so they could make a few nickels.”

Lewis worked out of Modern Shoe Repair in downtown Gainesville for 25 years until it closed recently. He said he likes his new location, and he is confident he will be successful there.

“Business has been good so far, and I can’t complain,” said Lewis. “Parking is good here, and when people realize this is where I am now, they will be coming. This is the best spot for me. You can’t miss my sign out there.”

Lewis said he loves doing what he does and he loves getting up and going to work.

“You’ve got to love your work,” he said. “I learn something new about shoes everyday. When I’m cleaning shoes, and can’t get it right at first, I stop doing what I’m doing, and I will come back to it later. When I do that, I get it right every time. This is a gift from the Lord. I like to work. If I go sit down, I won’t last long.”

His customers don’t won’t him to sit down either.

“I’ve been getting my shoes shined by him for years,” said Saul Rentz, the owner of SL Construction Co. in Gainesville, dropped off several pairs of shoes for Lewis to shine for him. “Nobody works on my shoes but him. He cares for them, and he does it the old-fashioned way.”

Emmett Bright dropped some shoes off as well.

“I have been getting my shoes shined by him for a while,” Bright said. “I keep coming to him because of the quality of the work, and his dependability. I will continue to support him. Shining your shoes is one thing. Having your shoes shined is a better thing.”

Lewis said he specializes in white leather tennis shoes, white nurses shoes, briefcases, golf shoes, leather purses, and suedes of all colors.

“I can shine almost any color of shoe,” Lewis said.

Lewis, who has been married to his wife, Mary H. Lewis, for 37 years. He has seen many changes in the shoe industry, especially the price of shoes.

“When I came up, you used to be able to buy shoes for $3.98 a pair,” Lewis said.

He also remembers when blacks used to get their shoes shined all the time.

“I used to have shoes all over the floor back in the day,” said Lewis. “I used to even work on Sundays.”

Lewis said the quality of shoes today are not as good as they used to be, and people are not as inclined to have shoes repaired or shined like they used to.

“There used to be seven shoe shops in Gainesville,” Lewis said. “All of them went out of business. The shoes they are making now are not built for repair.”

Lewis said he has dealt with racism in the shoe business, and he has dealt with it head on.

“I remember a white man who walked into the shoe shop one day and asked the owner if he had a boy in their who was shining shoes,” Lewis said. “I let him know that there was a man in there shining shoes, and not no boy.”

Another change he has seen occur over the years is that more women visit the shoe shop now than before.

“Professional women go to the shoe shop more than men,” Lewis said. “I guess it is just more professional women now.”

Lewis said he has a good customer base. He said when people found out that Modern Shoe Repair was closing, they asked him how they were going to get their shoes shined.

“I told them I would open up a shop of my own, and here I am,” Lewis said. “I’m the only shine man in town, and I know I’m going to do good business.”

Amos’ Shoe Shine Parlor is open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday.

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