This is the "Shoeshiner's Explorations" series. There are so many wonderful shoeshiners out there! In this second installment, we will ask Mr. Ryo Sudo, the only shoe polisher in Aomori, who was featured on NHK and opened his long-awaited new store last month.
How did you become a shoeshiner?
It all started at the "Shoe Expo 2019" held at Isetan Shinjuku. I went to have Mr. Hasegawa polish my shoes at that event, but he wasn't there during his lunch break, so Mr. Hayashida, the current shoeshiner at Brift H Sapporo, was there. You are young, so I think you can pursue your dream," and he gave me a push. Hokkaido is a snowy island like Aomori, so it was encouraging to hear Mr. Hayashida, who is an independent businessman there, say that.
Soon after that, I returned to my hometown and started mirror polishing in earnest. I had always done shoe polishing as a hobby. I just loved leather products and loved the way they aged as I took care of them. I found PORORI on Instagram, and at the same time, I came across cordovan. I asked PORORI what kind of tools he uses in his messages, and he told me "I use Crem (a product by saphir)" and many other things about tools, and before I knew it, I was in the cordovan swamp.... I was so impressed with the quality of the products. (laugh).
I used to be a police officer. I had a desire to try my hand at business someday, so when I was 24 years old, I quit my job as a police officer and switched jobs to work for a housing company. At that time, I decided that as a salesman, I needed to carry a proper leather bag! I bought a Dulles bag from Coco Meister, and this is how I got hooked on leather products. This is how I got hooked on leather products.
Please tell us about your store.
I opened a new store last month. With the help of an acquaintance, I was able to find a good property close to my home and close to the center of Aomori City, so I took a chance and got a loan from a bank to build this new store. The property is located between a tutoring school and a newspaper shop.
Originally, we rented a place in Dondon Town (a local vintage clothing store) in November 2019 and continued to operate 5 times a week for about a year, then we moved full-scale around December 2020 because the manager of an American casual clothing store called ARIZONA HIGHWAY liked our store.
The customers I met there were all people who were looking for good, long-lasting products, so I was able to create a good synergy with shoeshine. I met a total of 2-300 customers at that time and polished thousands of pairs of shoes. I think it was essential for me to meet such stores, people related to them, and customers before I opened my current store.
What do you think is the charm of shoeshine?
I think it is simply that "shoes shine as much as I work on them. I think shoes are the face of a person. The shoes of the current King Charles III are battered and cracked, but he still wears them with care while repairing them, and I think that is really cool.
I'm the type of person who can't throw things away, especially toys and stuffed animals that were bought because I wanted them (laughs). In today's disposable society, I think it would be good for society and for people if the practice of using things for longer periods of time became more prevalent. I would like to convey this to people through shoeshine.
To be continued in Part 2! Enjoy!