Longtime Shoe Repair Shop Closes on U Street Corridor

by Andrew Ramonas July 11, 2016 at 12:00 pm 1 Comment

Duke's Shoe Repair

A cobbler who has mended and shined shoes on the U Street corridor for more than 50 years apparently has called it quits.

Irving “Duke” Johnson, 95, seems to have shut down his Duke’s Shoe Repair shop in the Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center building at 2000 14th St. NW.

A Borderstan reporter who walked by the business this weekend found the store closed, with brown paper covering all its windows.

It wasn’t immediately clear when the paper went up. A phone number for the shop was disconnected.

Johnson started polishing shoes at 13th and U streets NW in 1960 when dozens of “bootblacks” worked in the neighborhood, according to The Washington Post. He then moved his business to 14th and U streets NW in 1986.

“There was a time when we had a lot of competition in this neighborhood,” Johnson told newspaper in 1987. “Most of those guys are dead now. I used to have three or four who worked for me, but now there is just my brother.”

During the following decades, he continued to work in a changing neighborhood, brushing off retirement plans.

In 2011, the D.C. Council made June 5 “Irving ‘Duke’ Johnson Day,” in honor of his 90th birthday and “all that he has contributed to the residents of Washington, D.C.,” according to a resolution.


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