Friday, May 11, 2012
After the Second World War, the urban North American coffee-to-go market was arguably dominated by a chain called Dunkin' Donuts. Like professionally managed market leaders in many fields, Dunkin' Donuts led a march to the bottom, forsaking quality and even cleanliness to hold prices down. And when Starbucks began offering a much better product for significantly more money, it changed the coffee-drinking culture (completely off topic, Starbucks to this day does not have stores that I know of in Italy because that is the one place where there is no need for its services).
When you go to have your shoes shined in London or New York these days, the prices are very low (if you can even find the service in London - the only shiner I know of is in the Royal Arcade) and the shines leave your shoes looking about like they did before they were polished. On the other hand, shoe lovers in Tokyo can patronize high quality shiners that remove your shoes and serve you a drink while they do work that is to the normal Manhattan shoe shine what Starbucks is to Dunkin' Donuts.
A couple of months ago, the people at A Shine & Co., the San Francisco and Kennedy airport company that is one of a handful of the best shoe care services in North America, introduced a Saphir shoe shine for $25, $10 more than their previous best shine. Shoes gleam after a couple coats of Saphir, and men who buy great shoes and want to keep them up have adopted it to the point that it has quickly become the highest grossing shine in the stores (do it yourselfers can of course find the Saphir line at the ASW store). That makes it good for the shiners as well as the customers.
There will always be people who prefer conventional coffee over Starbucks and its competitors, and there will always be men who need nothing more than a $5 once-over shoe shine. But A Shine & Co. may just be on to something.
In the photo, Kevin Tuohy, one of the founding partners of A Shine & Co., is at work on a complimentary Saphir shoe shine provided by ASW to guests at Style Forum's 10th Anniversary Party last week in San Francisco.
Posted by Will at 7:00 AM