An upstart Wall Street shoe shine shop doesn't want to be known as the Hooters of footwear, but its business model does beg a comparison.
Proprietor Kevin White opened the store because he was tired of getting his shoes shined by stony-faced men in "run-down, hole-in-the-wall" shops.
The Wall Street district, he figured, was sorely in need of a shoe shine place with some pizzazz. And what better way to spice things up than to hire a staff of outgoing young women in short-shorts and tank tops?
So in March, he opened Star Shine NYC near the New York Stock Exchange. To set itself apart from its stodgier brethren, Star Shine features scantily-clad female shoe shiners and flat screen TVs tuned to sports channels.
"I've definitely heard the comparison to Hooters," said Star Shine employee Samantha "Sam" Nazario, 23, a self-described feminist and actress who writes horror fiction. "We're not Hooters. [Star Shine] is well within my comfort zone."
"The whole business model is based on having females give shoe shines," said White, 55, who worked at an engineering firm in the financial district before opening Star Shine with his 30-year-old son, also named Kevin White. White senior emphasizes that the womens' personalities are more important than their looks. "The number one priority is for them to be very personable and outgoing." But all of them happen to be very attractive as well.
None of the women he hired knew how to shine shoes when they applied, so White brought in an expert to train them. Neither White nor his employees would say how much they are getting paid, beyond the fact that it's an hourly wage plus tips.
"The bottom line is they have to give a good shoe shine," said White, who's also booking private events including corporate affairs and bar mitzvahs.
The father-son team plan to kick the Star Shine experience up a notch by serving wine and beer. They expect to have their liquor license approved within two weeks.
A beer and a shine will cost $10. But, cautions Kevin White junior, "it's not a bar." Customers will be limited to two drinks each, and the shop will still close at 7 p.m. sharp.
Right now, Star Shine is running a "summer special" of $4 shines, down from the usual price of $5, while the neighboring shoe shop owned by Mike Shimunoff charges just $3. Shimunoff, who's been in business there for 10 years, does have a female staffer shining shoes, but she's wearing more clothing than the nearby Star Shiners.
He shrugs off the new competition. "For me, no problem, because my customers come for me," said Shimunoff.
One of his customers, attorney Steven Pugliese, said that while he understands the "incentive for a lot of people" to visit Star Shine, he is going to stick with Shimunoff.
"I've been coming here for years getting my shoes shined," said Pugliese. "I'm not going to change and have some girls in hot shorts shine my shoes."