How long has Mr. Rivers been shining shoes?
“All my life,” he says. “Ever since I was a kid.”
Michael Rivers, 58, went professional 25 years ago. Through hard work and a little hustle, he earned himself a spot at the coveted 42nd Street shoeshine stand outside Grand Central Terminal.
Shiners here used to set up shop on overturned cartons. In 1993, the city and Grand Central Partnership erected five shoeshine stations around the terminal. They picked a handful of freelance bootblacks to man the classy, high-backed chairs. Rivers landed the gig seven years ago. Customers now mount the green vinyl cushions daily to have Rivers buff their shoes for $5, their boots for $6.
The shine is the bread of his livelihood; tips are the butter. The amount “depends on the person I guess, how well you do the shoes,” says Rivers, brushing off the query. But he knows one thing for sure: “New York is about tipping.”