Just about a year ago, I put up a post on my old blog, Tripping With Marty, about getting a shoeshine from Don Ward, one of New York’s more famous shoeshine guys. Well, there’s only one famous shoeshine guy in Peoria and that would be George Manias. George has been shining shoes for over 66 years in downtown Peoria and is the owner of George’s Shoeshine and Hatters World Headquarters. I haven’t shined my shoes since Don did them and I try and get them polished up once a year whether they need it or not. So let’s go see George and see what kind of shine he can put on these boots of mine.
George’s Shoeshine is located in the Central Building on Adams Street in the heart of downtown Peoria.
It’s immediately to your left as you walk through these double doors.
See, here we are!
Peek-a-boo, I see you! Who is that fellow behind the counter?
It’s the man himself, George Manias. George is a really nice, soft-spoken gentleman, with the emphasis on gentle. He told me he’s a lifelong Peorian and that his parents came to Peoria from their homeland of Greece. I asked George if I could walk around and take some photos before my shine and he graciously said I was more than welcome to, so let’s take a little tour of the place.
The front counter is buried with newspapter articles about George and various souvenirs and bric-a-brac that has piled up through the years.
In addition to being a master shoeshine man, George also works on and sells hats. Here’s some housed in a glass counter up in the front of the shop.
George said he’s had this bench for as long as he’s been shining shoes. What a classic piece of furniture!
Some tools of the trade.
The place is loaded with pictures and I could spend days in here looking at them, let’s take a gander at a couple of them.
At first I thought this was a picture of George with Jerry Seinfeld, but it turns out to be George with Peoria's Mayor JIm Ardis.
Okay, it's time for the shoeshine. George gets my chair ready...
And so it's up in the chair we go.
As soon as I sit down, George flies into action.
The first step is brushing some lotion onto the leather of my boots.
He works in the first layer of lotion with this towel that's seen many shines in its day.
Next comes the shoe polish, which George works in by hand. I've never seen shoes polished this way, but they are already starting to really shine.
George has a smile plastered on his face the whole time he's working on my shoes, this is clearly a man who loves what he's doing and he's a master of the shoeshine.
A circular brush is used in this next phase of shoeshineology.
And the second to last phase is George buffing them out with a well-worn towel.
We're just about done, all that's left is...
George detailing the soles of the boots.
Wow, they look like brand new boots, I'll have to start making this a monthly stop.
I like to document things on my blogs that won't be around in the future and this is definitely one of those shots. Take a good look at the hands of a true craftsman. Pretty soon you'll be able to download an app to shine your shoes, so take advantage of the real thing while it's still here. George told me business has been slow, so if you're reading this and your shoes need a shine, stop on by and let George perform his magic on your shoes. See you all tomorrow.