Apr 5, 2022 - News

Shoeshiners to stay at Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport

A concourse at MSP Airport

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Photo: Anthony Souffle/Star Tribune via Getty Images

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is downsizing its shoeshining program, but won't follow other airports in getting rid of the service altogether.

Driving the news: The Metropolitan Airports Commission voted Monday to authorize a request for proposals that would reduce the number of shoeshine stations from five to three, and contract with a single vendor.

State of play: Currently the five MSP Airport stations are split between DG Express and Royal Zeno, both local companies.

  • The MAC surveyed 19 other airports and found that nine of them do not have shoeshiners — three of which have cut the service since 2019.
  • Airport spokesperson Patrick Hogan tells Axios that keeping some of the stations "is really more of a customer amenity than it is a moneymaker. The MAC gets very little revenue from this."

The intrigue: We wondered what the shoeshine business is like these days, so we asked Rosemary Zeno, the second generation owner of Royal Zeno. Her dad, Royal, started the business in 1970 and worked at the airport almost up until his death at age 90, in 2009.

  • Pre-pandemic, Zeno's shiners might get 12-20 clients on a good day. But now there are days when her employees get none.
  • Most of her employees, she said, are on Social Security and shining shoes to supplement their income.

Zoom out: Corporate air travel, which is the main driver of shoe shining clients, was still down 63% early this year, according to lobbying group Airlines for America.

  • But Zeno said demand for shoeshining at MSP Airport is stronger than other markets because of the snow, salt and sand people collect on their shoes in the winter.

What's next: Zeno plans to respond to the MAC's request for proposals.

  • "It's been really hard. I was born into this business and it's a legacy of my father that I would love to keep alive."

Of note: DG Express could not be reached for comment.


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