Making A Difference: Perfect Fit

RICHMOND, IND — For 95 years George Marinakes and his father prided themselves on taking care of people in Richmond. They were a “perfect fit.”

News Center 7′s James Brown stopped by the shop a few days before it closed for good last month.

George said “Making a Difference” came easy because they always put one shoe in front of the other.

There’s something to be said about a business tied to the same address for almost a century. This place was part of the American dream for Theodor Marinakes.

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Six days a week. “In those days, there were 22 shops in Richmond,” George said. Almost two dozen shoe repair shops and they outlived and outworked all of them.

The shop was located on East Main Street. “Everything was downtown. There were no shopping centers in those days,” George said.

George is now 94 years old. “I started working here at the store at the age of 12 and have been here ever since.”

His first job was shining people’s shoes.

They would jump up there, get their shine and they’d give us a nickel, and we were very happy,” George said.

He was one of four kids. He said his mom was the one who sent him to the shop. “Business was great.” So, he could understand the value of a good day’s work.

At 94, George’s mind is still sharp. He is witty. But, after 82 years of work, not even his tools and his attention to detail can fix his rotor cups. “Both are gone, and I can’t move my arms up anymore,” George said.

And, because of his age, surgery was not an option. So, when the doctor told him it was time to retire, George said, “Ok.”

George said there really was no soul-searching for him. “That’s it, it’s totaled you see.”

So, up went the small sign on the front counter. Word traveled fast about George. And, during News Center 7′s visit, people topped in one last time to show how much they cared for George.

We talked a bit about his business model. He said it was simple, it was hands-on. He said everyone who walked in and out of the door, he treated like family.

Linda Sittloh of Centerville, Indiana, said “George is one of those people – as soon as you walk in you have a connection with him.”

Sittloh grew up in Richmond. “He’s seen a lot of people come and go.” She said it was still hard to believe it was now George’s time to go.

“How have you made a difference in Richmond? Just being here all these years,” George said.

There were no tears during our visit, but lots of hugs and laughter.

For a man who used to get paid five cents to shine other people’s shoes. It’s safe to say there is no one else who would ever fill his.

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