Alex Blair makes worn shoes sparkle
Have you ever given your shoe a makeover? Alex Blair has been breathing new life and attractiveness to broken-down and extremely dirty footwear.
The 26-year-old Sandy Park, St Andrew resident is one of the most sought-after shoe cleaner in the Corporate Area. Owner and operator of Topman Shoes Services, Blair's craft has attracted the likes of top-flight dancehall artiste Valiant and prominent producer and marketer Romeich Major. This, however, is a far cry from where he was a few years ago, having endured a rocky period during his teenage years.
"I attended YMCA (Young Man Christian Association) for a while and I got in a fight, where I cut got up, and I, too, inflicted a few wounds. That resulted in me getting expelled. I then went to JAMAL and I was expelled, wrongly, from there as well," Blair said.
"I was sad, and I remember my mother told me that one day people are going to see me on the television in a positive way, and her word came to pass," he added.
Blair said he got into the shoe-cleaning game several years ago when he worked for Elite Shoe Care. After five years with the company, he branched off last year and started his own entity.
"The owner of Elite was the one who introduced me to this field and that was where I developed my craft. I learnt other things other than just washing the shoes. We do other things to the shoes that is very technical, so it's a serious job, but mi love mi work though," he added.
In addition to footwear, Blair also cleans and restores handbags from an unfinished room on the property where he resides. His tools of trade are simple: A washing pan, brush, small containers with dyes, and bottles of what he refers to as his 'special potion'. Some of the footwear that Blair is tasked to clean are extremely worn and tattered.
"Mi get a kickers and the person want it to repaint. But it's a very hard job because the owner wants me to go around the white stitches, and if mi clean it off the red going to run in the white stitches, and he wants his white stitches to be there; suh mi haffi go try and figure out a way to do it," Blair said.
"Another thing is the dye them that run, and sometimes a coloured dye will run on a white material, and I cannot give the customer back their shoes with it discoloured, so I just have to get it right at all times," he added.
He smiles as he recalled how a job for Valiant gave him a massive break on social media platform TikTok. He said he has known the entertainer for years, but it was a friend who told him about his shoe-cleaning business.
"First set of shoes that Valiant gave me to clean was 24 pairs, and that got me a lot of comments and send me viral on TikTok. He then gave me another 30 pairs, and then he gave me another two set again. So I have cleaned close to a 100 pairs for Valiant," he said.
In addition to word of mouth, Blair uses his TikTok page to promote his business, and he said the feedback has been remarkable. He said his clientele receives quality services at a cost of just $1,500 per pair of shoes.
"Sometimes the viewers them will comment and say it can't real when them see the before-and-after pictures. Some will say that is a new shoes I buy, but that's not the case," Blair said.