Dario’s 20-Cent Shoe Shines

by Darius Narizzano

East side of West Broadway between Houston and Prince Street looking south, ND (photo: Posted by Andrea Peters on If you grew up in Soho in the 1960’s, 1970’s or just hung out there)

When I was around 10… so 1973, I asked my father for a raise in allowance, I was then getting 25 cents a week. Soon after he came back home from a two week film shoot with a gift for me. In lieu of allowance he gave me a small shoe shine box wrapped with a red bow, included was black & brown wax, a rag & a brush. I made a big sign with my mother’s supplies advertising “Dario’s 20 cent shoe shines”. I set up on weekends right under the gallery flag, which was our stoop and in between the two gallery entrances. It was rare to get less than a dollar and not uncommon to get 5, which was a lot of money in 1973… for a 10 year old.

Darius’ Shoeshine Box

In the beginning when I finished for the day I would walk a few blocks over to the shoe makers shop and reinvested my earnings by buying every color wax in existence as well as cleaners, brushes, rags, applicators etc. I quickly grew out of the little box my dad gave me and started carrying my equipment & supplies in a couple of wooden milk crates. One day dumpster diving, the treasure hunting of my youth, I found a metal shoe stand and added it to the top of one of my milk crates. It became my shoe shine stand. This little business gave me freedom, allowed me to have whatever I wanted for lunch from the little bodega across the street on the corner, which was always a roast beef hero and a Yoo-hoo, and when I was 12 it paid for my plane ticket to visit my grandparents in England. I retired my box just before 13. But I have always kept my first business with me and it’s a great memory.

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