You ever get moved by the spirit of someone’s hustle and passion for their craft? Next time you’re in downtown Durham with ya good shoes on, stop by and see Mr. McKoy. If anyone deserves a plug 🔌 it’s this Brotha here.

From 50 yards down Main St.  a man called out to me and gestured towards my feet. Due to cross paths, he continued physically and audibly selling himself and his craft as I closed the tract between us. Once within a fist bump distance he complimented my kicks and introduced himself, “Mr. McKoy: Best Shoeshine Man on the East Coast. Hop up in the chair, Brotha,” he said confidently, “I need to get those” 

Bound for @Beyu to pick up  a cup of coffee, I gave my word to the self proclaimed shoe shine expert, told ‘em that I’d stop back by for his service when I could but didn’t have time at the moment. With espresso on the brain 🧠 I continued on. Little did I know, as  I passed exotic in route to my 8 ounces of Carver’s Peanut Butter, the divine  appointment set with Mr. McKoy would prove to be the natural uplift I set out for that day.

I’d later come to appreciate the duration of the walk and the wait at Beyu. It awarded time for research and nostalgia. 

Did you know that the world’s earliest photograph of human beings, taken in 1839,  depicts a Paris street corner and captures in it a person getting their shoes shined?…Well, now we do.While professional shoe shining as a trade has dwindled significantly in numbers since its photographic debut in the 1800s, the art form lives on through its enduring practitioners. 

My grandfather owned a professional shoe shine kit. When I was a child, my father showed me how to shine my shoes with the kit he got from his dad. The technique, he said he learned from his father. Instantly I pictured a young “Pops”, as we called him, sitting high atop a shoe shine stand amidst a bustling Black Wall Street, dressed in his Sunday suit, enjoying a shine from a promising entrepreneur. This, just a quick stop on his way to M&F bank to make a deposit.

Although It was chronologically possible, given that my grandpa’s lifespan did coincide with the documented rise of black Wall Street, to my knowledge it never happened that way. However, It was a dope image nonetheless.  At least the thought made me smile and would eventually lead to a promise kept. 

I completed my transaction at the coffee lounge then took a few warming sips before a return to the cold outside. I looked up the way and saw his  chair was empty. Waiting for me back up Main St was Mr. McKoy,  a  piece of history, and the most satisfying shoe shine experience a patron could hope for. 

Turns out he is, in fact, the best around, hands down. Mr. McKoy has been keeping the “dying art” of professional shoe shine alive and well…one shoe at a time…for more than 50 years. He stands each morning as proof, you don’t have to look too hard to find gems  that shine in Downtown Durham.


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