Wrekd_lucy aka Jes The Shoeshine Guild
“Elevating the craft and art of shoeshining and leather care”
New York has this unequivocal energy. I could either resist it or refuse it. As an artist, it’s mesmerizing. So many people from so many different backgrounds. Exchanging ideas, creating and collaborating. Inventors and innovators, restless souls. Some looking to get lost, others looking for that thing to fill the void. I had my first visit when I was 15. I decided then, this was THE place.
For me, New York is like that unhealthy relationship you keep going back to. I’m currently on my third go at it. I swore I would never return after I finished school, but found myself eagerly volunteering, like a captive with Stockholm syndrome, when I had an opportunity to come for my job. I had spent the last 6 years out of college shining shoes in San Francisco where my friends had a small chain of boutique shoeshine parlors and events services. I had been managing one of their locations for 3 years when we were asked to open up a location at JFK airport.
I landed to find that same energy I had remembered, the hustle, the hum, the grind, the pace. The excitement wore thin all too fast and managing and building a business proved to be 1000 times harder than it had been in laid back California. Hell, simple daily life things like grocery shopping, doing laundry or mailing a package can become a treacherous day long odyssey. After one long year I had to tap out.
Two years and one failed marriage later, my friends once again asked if I would come out to help open another new location. 6 weeks of work only and then I could restart my shattered life. 6 weeks and I bounced from one sublet or couch or airbnb to the next. I “lived” in Washington Heights, Inwood, Hell’s Kitchen, Times Square and Sugar Hill. I was convinced it was temporary and I had plans to move back to Cali. I even bought a plane ticket and shipped my things, just to show how serious I was about said plans. I waved goodbye to NYC only to find myself back after 2 weeks, to help with the shoeshine business, a “tiny bit more”.
I found a sublet in Bushwick followed by another. As the second one was coming to a close and there still seemed to be a “tiny bit more” work still, I noticed something was shifting in me. Maybe I was tired of never unpacking, maybe the constant struggle and pummeling that is NYC life finally beat me into submission. I started looking for housing that had opportunities to get on a lease. In the year that I had been planning to move to California I had joined a photography club and I had gotten back into art like never before. In the year that I had been planning my escape, shoe shine aficionados and fashionistas began to seek me out as their sole provider of leather care. Instagram netted me customers who would send me their shoes from out of state for custom dye jobs and patinas. While I had been daydreaming a life that I couldn’t bring into existence, a real life had started to take root beneath me. I found the most adorable roommates on Craigslist, and Brooklyn declared itself my home. And while who knows if it will be forever, 2.5 years in, happily for now, I can’t imagine being anywhere else.