WICHITA — Except for airports, it's rare to see many shoe shine men these days.
"There are so many people who don't even know where to get a shine at today," says Robert Cook, who has Robert's Shoe Shine Services. "It's a dying art."
Cook is transitioning his business from a couple of Joe's Seat Cover & Carwash stores to the kiva lobby at the Garvey Center. He won't be there on a full-time basis for another couple of weeks.
Former Garvey Center shoe shine man Richard Henry died almost a year ago. Cook says another couple of shoe shine men in the area have died as well.
"It seemed like it created a void, so I'm here to fill that."
Cook worked in a number of other jobs before deciding to enter the shoe shine business eight years ago after he was laid off from Safelite AutoGlass.
"Getting laid off just didn't fit me too well," Cook says. "I decided I didn't want to get mixed up in that anymore. ... I just thought it would be better to be independent."
He says the Garvey Center makes sense for a number of reasons.
"I just think that that area is growing."
Also, he says, "The spirit over there just seems to be appropriate."
Cook says he'll be located near Sheer Voltage Salon.
"We're going to kind of have each other's back," Cook says of the women who own and work at the salon.
Cook hopes females will be a key part of his business.