Throwback, Minas Polychronakis.

by Alexandra Leigh


Minas Polychronakis is a Greek immigrant in his late sixties. I met him two years ago when I went into his shoe repair shop on Wall Street. His immediate sense of charm and compassion was completely infectious and within minutes we were friends. Since then, much of our time together was spent smoking cigarettes, sipping coffee and chatting about his different customers from all over the county.
Minas has been in this business for over 30 years, he lost his original store on September 11th. He says if it wasn’t for the attacks he would be retired but feels he has an obligation to support his area of lower Manhattan. Minas was capable of reopening a store on Wall Street but has been struggling ever since. Now he is facing the current financial turmoil and is fighting to keep his shop open. Like many other small businesses, his depends on the success of the markets. Although he considered his store in the towers his first home, through my eye his store on Wall Street is a complete representation of his personality. There is so much character and detail throughout his store that completely embodies his personality. Prior to this experience, I would have never imagined thinking of a shoe repair shop as something so beautiful and unique. It is overlooked on the surface but when you take the time to look deeper, there is a certain warmth that is projected through his store. Whether it is the way the piles of shoes fall on each other or the way a purse sits on a hanger, there is a particular sense of character that completely represents Minas. My goal was to capture the essence of this and show how it is portrayed through the tiniest details of his shop.
A few years ago I did a photo project on Minas, to this day I still hold those images very close to my heart. His story is filled with much struggle and pain but somehow he still manages to keep pushing forward and projects his compassion and warmth through his customers. It was a pleasure photographing him and I plan to do so for many more years.