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74-Year-Old Jim's Shoe Repair Shop Wages Landmarks Fight

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If you like family-run businesses, it's probably hard to compete with Jim's Shoe Repair at 50 East 59th Street, where things are still done by hand, as they have been for the past 74 years. However, their time between Park and Madison avenues could be coming to an end, unless the courts rule in their favor. The landlord—prolific developer SL Green—is booting them out at the end of September to allow the expansion of the already sizable Duane Reade next door. Jim's asked if they could just keep the front of the shop and some basement space, but were told no. Jim's then petitioned the Landmarks Preservation Commission to designate the store as a landmark. But the LPC decided it wasn't worthy of a hearing. So, Jim's filed papers in New York State Supreme Court to appeal the LPC's decision and Wednesday morning, as shoes were being shined uptown as usual, a date was set for the case's hearing. It will go before a judge on Wednesday, July 30 at 9:30 a.m. at 60 Centre Street.

After the hearing date was set, I headed up to Midtown and spoke with 56-year-old Joseph Rocco, Jr., who runs the shop. He's been working there since he was 13, when he'd come in on Saturdays. He said Jim's "is like your home" and "everybody knows everybody." He doesn't even smell the shoe polish anymore. He said they've always tried to treat people fairly and customers repaid that loyalty. Ed Sullivan (yes, THE Ed Sullivan) used to come in. Andy Rooney would come into the city all the way from his home in Connecticut just to get his shoes fixed there.

The store was founded by Rocco's grandfather in 1932 across the street and was moved to the current location in 1940. The vintage cash register is still in use up front, but it only goes up to $9.99—when it was installed, who could imagine needing to pay more at a shoe repair shop? The store is still owned by Joseph's 84-year-old father.

"It's sad," Joe Jr. said of the store's potential closing. They're looking for a place to move the business if the court doesn't rule in their favor, but so far retail rents in the area are just too expensive.

—Evan Bindelglass is a local freelance journalist, photographer, cinephile, and foodie. You can e-mail him, follow him on Twitter @evabin, or check out his personal blog.
· Support Jim's [Jeremiah's Vanishing New York]
· Shoe Repair Shop Filing For Landmark Status Ahead of Closing [Racked NY]
· Jim's Shoe Repair coverage [Racked NY]