In a city where passersby throw their fists at shoeshine men and shoeshiners set fire to rival shine booths, let's take pleasure in the presence of Mel's Place, a shine stand just north of Times Square, blessed with originality and nostalgia.
It's a ramshackle contraption on wheels. It features a bench with two chair tops that have had their legs sawed off. It has four foot rests and a roof to keep off the rain. These makeshift, personalized booths used to exist all over town.
They were like the newsman-owned newsstands, like Petrella's Point, before Bloomberg turned them all into ticky-tacky boxes.
Inside, the signs say, "Mel's shine brings out the soul in your shoes." Nice. And: "Mel says... When there's a shine on your shoes, there's a Mel-o-dy in your heart," which is a line from a song best known from the musical The Band Wagon, starring Fred Astaire. But here's a pretty fantastic rendition from the Lawrence Welk Show, featuring a tap-dancing U.S. Marine in full dress blues.
Really, that's the feeling you get when you get a shine from a stand like Mel's.