FINANCIAL DISTRICT — The lady shoe shiners who drew attention for their Hooters-style outfits have ditched their skimpy uniforms and are bringing their buffing skills to luxury apartment buildings across Manhattan.
The women of Star Shine NYC, a shoe-shine service that employs young, attractive women to clean scuffed-up kicks, have started setting up shop in upscale buildings. The weekly service has popped up in about a dozen residences, including 2 Water Street in the Financial District and The Caroline in Flatiron.
The gigs are the latest iteration for the female shiners. Last year, Star Shine NYC caused a stir when it opened a store in the Financial District, offering “upscale” shoe shines by women wearing Hooters-like uniforms: skimpy shorts and tank tops.
The 40 New St. shop, which was also serving alcohol, closed several months ago, thanks, in part, to little foot traffic on the quiet block near Wall Street, owner Kevin White said.
Since then, the crew has focused on events and concierge services — though the women now mostly do not wear their revealing outfits.
“Our clients were requesting that the women wear more business-like attire, or T-shirts and pants,” White said. “It’s still unusual to have young women shining shoes, that’s different, and they do a good job.”
John Dipaolo, the building manager for Pan Am Equities, has been using the women’s services in several of his residential buildings, including The Caroline at 60 W. 23rd St., since the summer.
Dipaolo said he’s constantly looking for new amenities for residents and he liked the idea of having a free shoe-shine service, along with the novelty of having young women do the job.
"I like to do things that add a little fun, a little buzz," Dipaolo said. "It's free of charge to our residents, and it's definitely unique to have a young, pretty woman shining your shoes."
The women set up for three hours, once a week, in the building lobby. Residents can sit for a shine, or they can drop off shoes.
Star Shine employee Leah Hernandez, 27, said she's had only positive experiences with residents. She's been coming to The Caroline since the summer — wearing black dress pants and a black shirt.
With the more buttoned-up look, Hernandez said she has drawn more female customers who regularly ask for their boots to be buffed.
"I would never really ever think about getting a shoe-shine usually, " said Caroline resident Elisabeth Mandel. "But having a woman do it actually makes me more comfortable — its kind of like the experience of getting a pedicure."
Resident David Boyle, 45, said he's been getting a shoe shine regularly since the building started offering it.
"Yes, it's unusual to have a woman shining your shoes, but I didn't really think about the gender thing — it's just nice to get a free shoe shine every week, right in your building."
White, the owner of the shoe-shine business, said he's looking for another storefront for the Star Shine women, but they'll likely keep their new professional look.
"This seems to be working for us — we're even being hired out for weddings and bar mitzvahs," he said. "I think their outfits brought us a lot of attention, but this seems like what our customers want."
White hasn't completely hung up the tiny uniforms, though.
"If someone requests the outfit for an event," he said, "we're not opposed to it."