‘Die-Hard Customers Look In Their Closets For Stuff To Fix’: Minas Shoe Repair During COVID

Minas Shoe Repair (63 Wall Street) closed three months ago in response to the pandemic, and customers have since seemed to miss cobbler Asimenia “Menia” Polychronakis just as much as she missed them. 

Some people checked in on me,” Polychronakis told the Downtown Alliance. After her shop’s temporary shutdown on March 17, she began receiving messages from her devoted following. “Some regulars have emailed and said they walked by the store just to check on me. When you see your regulars, it’s like seeing your best friends again.”

After decades in the family business working alongside her late father, the charismatic Downtown fixture and Minas Shoe Repair founder Minas Polychronakis (a local legend), Menia had plenty of opportunity to build rapport with the people in her neighborhood. “I basically grew up with the shop,” Menia said. “I came in to help a little bit after 9/11, and after 20 years I’m still here.” The shoe repair has been open for 50 years, save a brief pause after relocating from the base of the Twin Towers, post-September 11; Minas reopened at its Wall Street location in 2003.

During the store’s 2020 shutdown, customers kept her busy by mailing her shoes. “People ship us things, and we ship us right back — we’ve been shipping things out like crazy,” Polychronakis said. “Some people moved out of state and don’t know when or if they’ll be back. We have die-hard customers who look in their closets for stuff to fix, because they want to help keep us in business.”

Polychronakis reopened on June 15 for pickup and dropoff service. Business has been slow. Office staff are largely working in remote capacities, so the streets of Lower Manhattan are still quiet. Pre-pandemic, the store was usually mobbed with professionals running errands before the start of the work day, during lunch breaks and on the way home from the office. Now, she is witnessing more of a steady trickle like she’d see on a pre-pandemic Saturday, when all the outer-borough regulars would come in. 

Polychronakis also laments not yet being able to hire back the staff she had to lay off, but she remains optimistic: “Every day is a little bit better. This week I’ve been seeing more foot traffic. I’m actually seeing some people wearing suits.”