Tucked away in a nook so small you are more likely to walk past it than notice it even when you are looking for it, the somewhat mysterious boot man Boris toils away fixing up broken old shoes. I recently took him my favorite summer sandals, so worn down from constant wearing that I felt like I was walking barefoot in them, and sure enough he made them look brand new again, imbued them with a second life.
What’s more, his little shop (if you could even call it that) has shoes pouring out of it from all corners, so much so that there isn’t even really place to stand. My friends and I have found great vintage boots there for around $20 a pair. You just tell him your size and what you are looking for, and out of the shoe-rubble he starts pulling out pair after pair, proving that there most certainly is an order to the chaos in his workspace.
You love the style but not the color? He will change the color for you. You found the perfect shoes but they are size too small? He will stretch them out, no problem. There is nothing he can’t do.
There is a certain enigma surrounding Boris the Boot Man which lends a little bit of magic to the whole experience. As you walk into (or more likely stand tentatively outside) his too crowded hole-in-the-wall shoe (repair) shop, you wonder, ‘Where does he get all these shoes from?’. But if you ask him, he is somewhat evasive, and you probably won’t get a real answer. Furthermore, if you are there long enough, you will see that his clientele includes everyone from the NYU hipster crowd to homeless men with tattered clothing. ‘How did they hear about him?’, you think to yourself, trying to make sense of it all.
He has been a fixture on St Mark’s for 20 years now but I didn’t hear about him until last February, which definitely makes him, a well-kept NYC secret.Check out “East Village Shoe Repair” on 1 St. Mark’s Place (Between 2nd and 3rd ave). Look out for the dirty Barney doll if you need a “landmark”.