A Collection of City Thoughts

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Royale Shoes

*a short little something i found while cleaning my files*

From what I gather Raphael is the Shoe Man who operates (or once operated) Royale Shoes, a curious breed of store located in my neighbourhood. I live in the Western fringes of Little Italy where trendy cafes gradually become dirty Portuguese man-bars, authentic Portuguese restaurants and random Christian paraphernalia shops.

Smack-dab beside the Jehovah Witness Centre is now a Starbucks Coffee. Which, if you ask me, is a pretty good thing for the Jehovah's. Why go door-to-door when you can stand outside a Starbucks?

As for the rest of the neighbourhood, it seems that most stores are either in the final stages of bankruptcy, have closed down entirely or in the curious case of Royale Shoes, have decided to exist as it always has, except without the customers.

At Royale Shoes the lights are always off. The door is always closed. Inside the display case is a haphazard hodge-podge of shoe wares from the 60's, 70's and 80's. These shoes haven't changed since I moved here two years ago.

What's even stranger about a shoe store that appears open but is never in fact open is that every time I walk by Royale Shoes the radio is playing in the front foyer. It's tuned to some Portuguese station playing old Portuguese ballads.

Yesterday I peered inside to find a loaf of bread sitting on the counter beside dusty shoe boxes and scattered newspapers. This loaf of bread is the first sign I've come across that indicates that someone, Raphael I assume, is hiding out inside the defunct shoe store.

I suppose I could easily ask one of the older storeowners in the area about the mysterious whereabouts of Raphael the Shoe Man, but then of course there would be no mystery. Perhaps Raphael owned Royale Shoes with his devoted wife of 50 years - a tiny Portuguese woman with thick ankles, a furry moustache and a warm soul. Perhaps she died a tragic death leaving Raphael with a broken heart and a store full of shoes. Perhaps it was too painful for Raphael to close down the store entirely and so decided to leave it there in her memory. Perhaps those Portuguese ballads are love songs to her. Perhaps?

If Raphael does exist, I am bound to bump into him one of these days. If I ever do I'll tell him the truth - that I've been spying on his store. And he'll tell me, 'I knew you've been all along!' Then we'll chat about shoes and politics and I'll ask him what he thinks of all this development in our quaint neighbourhood, and he'll ask me the same, and whether or not I think the Jehovah's are as much a nuisance to the neighbourhood as the Starbucks.