Peoria Journal Star

December 7, 2006

Peoria shoeshine man praised in Senate
Durbin lauds Manias' 60-year commitment

 

 

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Sen. Dick Durbin on Wednesday paid tribute to legendary shoeshine man George Manias on his 60 years of shining shoes in Downtown Peoria.

Speaking on the Senate floor, Durbin, D-Ill., praised the 75-year-old for his work ethic and dignified demeanor. He showed an enlarged photo of Manias to the Senate and C-SPAN audience

While Manias has shined the shoes of former Presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, among other notables, Durbin said all of his customers get the same treatment.

"It doesn't matter if you're a well-known politician or if the $3 you spend on that shoeshine is the only $3 you have, George makes you feel special," Durbin said.

The Peoria City Council also honored Manias' 60-year anniversary with a proclamation at Tuesday's meeting, praising his work ethic and dedication to Peoria's Downtown.

Manias received the recognition on the council floor, along with his family.

"He's just one of a kind," said Emanuel Manias, who operates a detective agency Downtown just blocks from his brother and steps away from their sister Angela Manias' candy and gift shop. "I know for a fact that there's no one he's ever met that he didn't like."

Manias himself was too choked up to say much more than thank you.

Durbin's statement on the Senate floor and the resolution will be published in the Congressional Record, where all official business of the Senate is recorded.

On Dec. 6, 1946, Manias opened his shoeshine business with one chair in the corner of a Downtown barbershop. His current shop is across from the Peoria County Courthouse.

"He's old-school. He massages the polish into your shoes with his bare hands," Durbin said on the Senate floor.

The son of Greek immigrants, Manias didn't take a vacation for 29 years, until he went back to Greece in 1975 for two weeks with his mother, brother and sister. After that, he didn't take another vacation for 25 years.

"Work and family - those are the things that matter to George Manias," Durbin said.

George's Shoe Shine and Hattery has grown from a small business to a legend, featured not only in local media but on "Today" and in USA Today - twice.

"The walls are covered with news clippings and photographs of famous people who have dropped in for a shine. ... But you don't have to be famous to feel welcome," Durbin said.

"Customers come to George's for more than just the spit-polish shines. They come to chat and to learn what's happening in Peoria."

He added, "George Manias is a quintessential American in a quintessentially American city."

 

Dori Meinert can be reached at (202) 737-7686 or dori.meinert@copleydc.com