“You know how James Brown says he gets ants in the pants and he needs to dance?” Morgan Perkins asks the customer sitting in the shoeshine chair. “Well, I’m the same with shoes.” The smartly dressed 72-year-old has been putting his famous military shine on Seattle’s shoes for 41 years—ever since he first walked into the Nordstrom flagship store and promised to run the classiest stand in town.
“Bruce Nordstrom, quite a fellow, he took my word that I could make something out of this,” Perkins recalls. Nordstrom’s faith paid off. Perkins’ crackerjack team of nine is professional and friendly (even in the midst of heated discussions about last night’s game), and known for shines of the highest quality. Proof of Perkins’ stellar service lies in his countless regular customers—some of whom have been coming to the stand for 30 years; others who live out of state make a point to stop by for a shine whenever they’re in town. Perkins and his wife, Patsy, have seen four kids through college, and all of them have worked at the stand at some point.
This month, the Kirkland resident will retire, leaving the city’s shoes in the able hands of his youngest son, Brent, and Brent’s wife, Sunny, the latter of whom Perkins admits can outshine even him. “A lot of folks say, ‘Morgan, I like you, but where’s your daughter-in-law?’”
NEED TO KNOW:
1/ Perkins has guided the opening of shoeshine stands at six Nordstrom stores across the country.
2/ Regular customers in Colorado and Kentucky ship their shoes to Seattle for a Perkins polish.
3/ Perkins says the shoe wax he uses also acts as a sealant, protecting against moisture damage.
4/ The price for a shine at the downtown Nordstrom stand has only risen three times since 1973, with its current rate at $2.50/shine (boots, $3.50; golf shoes, $4.50).