At the corner of West Main Street and East Chapel Hill Street, a magnetic man with a familiar voice serves the people of Durham every day.
Pierce McKoy is as vibrant as the shoes he shines. His presence is known throughout the city, even if just through a warm smile or witty one-liner as you pass by him outside Beyù Caffè.
He is more than a shoe-shiner to most. He is a staple to Durham itself.
With the pop of his cloth and the explosive resonance of his laugh, McKoy’s shoeshine experience is like no other. He doesn’t normally have a set price for his shoe-shining services, and simply asks that you pay as much as you think the shine is worth.
However, a customer usually leaves with more than just a pair of shiny shoes.
Within minutes of speaking to McKoy, you feel like you’ve known him for years. It’s partially the relationships he forms that drives him to continue in this career.
“The shoeshine chair is therapy. Different people, different conversations, you get to meet them. Yeah, I love what I do.”
He will hint at secrets of the trade and says he knows how to clean a part of a shoe – he won’t name where – that no one else does. He will challenge anyone to a shoe-shining competition with the humble confidence that comes with a long life of good training.
A native to the city, McKoy has been in the business ever since he was nine years old.
“My mama and my daddy felt like, well, once he starts cleaning these shoes, he ain’t going to last. But I did.”
He sure did. Fifty-three years as a shoe-shining entrepreneur, McKoy has traveled the country and shined the shoes of many a celebrity, but he always comes back to Durham because “that’s home.”
Produced by Marin Herold, Anne Marie Hagerty, and Adrian Gilliam (2017 Interns)