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The Greek shoemaker on Wall Street

24 January 2010 / 15:01:20  GRReporter
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Among the skyscrapers and banks in the heart of Manhattan on Wall Street there is a small shoemaker’s shop owned by Minas Polihronakis. In the last two years after the outbreak of the world financial crisis the business of the small shoemaker starts to blossom. His clients include bankers, financial advisors, brokers and lawyers from the capital of the funds and the shoes he brings back to life cost up to 1400 dollars a pair. Prada, Manolo, Christy, Mary Janes and many other “wonderful works of art” (as Carrie Bradshaw from “The Sex & The City” would probably call them) have their guardian angel. In the past forty years Minas works and lives in New York and the electronic issue of the “Vima” newspaper tells us his story.

Minas Polihronakis was born in a small village on the island of Crete. Facing the reporter Yannis Papadopoulo the shoemaker says that in his village there was only an elementary school and the high school was 20 kilometers away in a neighbor village. “I had no choice, I had to learn an occupation. I will become either a shoemaker or a tailor,” tells Polihronakis. He has anyways decided to succeed and as a youngster he leaves for Athens. He studies for three years in the music conservatoire. The financial problems make him quit and in 1969 he leaves for the USA. He remembers: “I had exactly 138 dollars in my pockets, a suitcase and a small guitar. Alone. Foreigner.” With the help of other Greeks, who have already settled in America, the young Minas finds a house and a job as a shoemaker. After a year of hard work he manages to save some money and decides to take a chance. He opens a small shoemaker shop on his own.

The first shop of Polihronakis was close to the twin towers in New York. About September 11th, 2001 the shoemaker remembers: “The memory of this day is still chasing me. I remember that when the first airplane crashed the lights started to twinkle. Then glass started to fall. A panic started. Everybody on the streets was panicking. I closed the shop quickly and then the second plane fell. I went crazy.” Along with the assault in 2001 and the destruction of the twin towers 1200 small businesses were destroyed and this included the shoemaker’s store. The losses for the Greek craftsman were not just the 200 thousand dollars he had taken as a credit for the repair of the shop, but also in its commercial position. Five years later the shoemaker finds the perfect place for his new shop on Wall Street. At the shelf next to the cash register he keeps a jar with the ashes of the September tragedy.

About the crisis Polihronakis says: “I am an optimist. Crises come and go. Now the young people will learn their lesson and will be more critical to the deceitful gloss of Wall Street. They won’t spend their money so irresponsibly.” About himself the shoemakers says he didn’t like his profession while he was living in Greece because he it wasn’t his choice of heart, but it was his need. Today as an owner Minas Polihronakis says: “I give life to the shoes which my clients love. I see their joy when they come to pick them up. I am living my dream now.”

Tags: New York society shoemaker
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