Horace’s Shoe Shine: A Legacy of over 50 Years at PTI

Feb 6, 2019 | Blog

The Shoe Shine booth at PTI is a longstanding establishment that has lasted through two different airport terminals and two generations of ownership. Frequent PTI travelers may have noticed the elevated seats located on both of PTI’s concourses and many may even know the current shoe-shiner and business owner, Horace McLean. Horace splits his time at his two stands that are located on the north and south concourses of the terminal. What some travelers may not know is how long the McLean shoe shining business has been a fixture at PTI. Its history dates all the way back to Horace’s father, James McLean.

James started at the old PTI terminal building back in the 1960s as a result of a connection he had with someone who was working at the airport at the time. The McClean’s had just recently moved from the eastern region of North Carolina and James found himself in Greensboro without work. To help support his family, he decided to start his own business as a shoe shiner at the airport to serve passengers who were traveling to and from the Piedmont Triad.

When asked about his father, Horace remarks that his father was a bit quieter and not as outgoing as him. He says that people still ask about James and tell him that they remember his father and his work. Horace also says that his father was well-respected by the people that knew him, and they regularly stopped by his shoe shine stand on their travels. “He was a fixture that drew people,” said Horace.

Horace started working with his father at the airport when he was only eight years old. When he was 20 years old and finished with school, he took over the family business.  James continued working at the booth until he retired at 80 years old, shortly before his unfortunate passing in 1993.

Horace has always looked up to his father and the way that he conducted his business, but he has put his own personality into his job throughout his 34 years of work.  Over his years at PTI, Horace has noticed a lot of changes around the airport and passengers in general.

“Around 2008-2009, passenger attire started to change. People started dressing more casually and relaxed. They started wearing sneakers and I had less shoes to shine,” says Horace. He also says that business was booming before that time period since tobacco, furniture, and textile industries were extremely successful in this region. Horace says he has noticed passenger traffic picking up at PTI recently.

Horace’s favorite part of his job is the relationships that he has developed with people from all over the world. He remarked that building relationships is an important part of customer service, and he has been able to do that since his job is very one-on-one. Horace said that customer relations are not always easy, but he is thankful for the highs and lows over the years because they have made him better.

The McLean family’s dedication to PTI Airport and its passengers for over half a century is worth celebrating. The next time you visit PTI, make a stop by Horace’s Shoe Shine. His warm smile and enthusiastic conversation are guaranteed to be a highlight of your trip.

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