Houston Shoe Hospital, Houston

I’ve recently learned to admit to how much I enjoy grand marketing and advertising gestures. A great ad campaign not only catches my eye, but usually redirects my business. And if many of our favorite services are in fields which rely on “takeaway” business, a successful campaign drives my attention into a trial. I am almost positive that while I am not an every day coffee drinker, when I crave that caffeine, I focus on my favorite brand.

That same recognition is what partly drives this week’s location selection. I remember seeing this Houston Shoe Hospital and Pilgrim’s Cleaners location almost daily as a child on a bus ride or drive to school. It was something symbolic and easily identified for an otherwise directionally challenged passenger. Circling back as an adult to the company and the many locations that have seen continued success only reinforces for me that there is strength in doing things right and with a customer focus.

There is something that sticks with me about the dwindling art and trade of shining shoes. I see empty shoe shine booths at the airports, but at this time of year, filled seat stands at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

I’ve personally looked toward dusty, square toe work boots as my Rodeo boots of choice. They are pretty straightforward and get the job done. At the risk of losing my Texan status, I only have one pair of boots. Boots aren’t always the most comfortable footwear selection, and since I don’t Rodeo or Two-Step consistently, other shoes usually win out for me.

Growing up, I always thought that there would be more shoe shine stands outside of barber shops. I watched quite a few Film Noir films, usually showcasing a gumshoe detective constantly on the move, throwing a coin tip to a shoe shine as they followed a lead. But, maybe by the time I saw these films, the styles and fashion trends have changed so that wingtips are no longer the status quo. Or maybe I am just not GQ enough to bring back that practice at this point in my wardrobe.

In contemplating the shoe shine theme this week, I remembered a specific trip to New Orleans where outside of Cafe Du Monde, on the far side of Jackson Square, close to the water, I did receive a sneaker clean with a double talking-ly sharp New Orleans hustle. A gentleman approached me saying he could guess where I got my shoes. At the time, I was wearing a busted up pair of sneakers that had long over-served their tenure on my feet. They were a black woven design (JJ II’s for any sneaker heads out there) that had flecks of paint on them from random projects over the years. As I sat on concrete steps, the gentleman rubbed a sort of conditioner on the shoes and ended up guessing where I “got” my shoes (which was a playful and technically tongue in cheek response). It was a quick witted hustle and handily all in good fun. Upon the shine’s completion, my travel companion slipped the man a tip as we moved through the quarter.

The track this week comes from Jim Capaldi, who sings a song about a child looking in a department store window at a toy. Longingly, the child glances into the display. One of my favorite holiday films “A Christmas Story” has a similar scene, as I think we all at one time or another have wanted a Red Rider BB gun or something of the like. But, the chorus describes trying to make a living as a Shoe Shine, which ultimately is why I selected the track. The song reminds me of the trip to New Orleans, the great job Houston Shoe Hospital has always done with anything we have brought them, and where I have always “got” my shoes.

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