Meet the real McKoy


“If you don’t like the shine, you don’t pay a dime” or “Hey, let me do your shoes” are just a few of the things you can hear when you’re walking down West Main Street on a sunny day.

Durham native Pierce McKoy has been shining shoes since 1967– and to many of those in the area, he’s the real deal. McKoy is out with his chair seven days a week offering to shine the shoes of just about anyone. That’s right, he can make old tennis shoes look brand spankin’ new.

McKoy has been in this business since 1966, so he is definitely not shy to the people that cross his path. “People who understand a shine, get a shine,” McKoy says. He is constantly making connections and building personal relationships with everyone he meets. (Staff photos by Taylor Mabrey)


“I watched my parents go to work every day, and it meant something to me,” McKoy, 61, said. His mother and father both worked on Pettigrew Street so he calls that street his “babysitter” from when he was young. McKoy got started by cleaning shoes, not shining them. He would watch boys clean shoes while he was hanging out on Pettigrew and wanted in on that gig.

He spent a few years learning all there is to learn about shining shoes, and he eventually did his first pair around age 13. He thought he did an OK job, he just had not perfected “popping the rag,” which is the coolest part of the shine.

“It looks easy until you try it,” McKoy said. Once McKoy got the perfect pop, which is a quick snap motion with the rag, he never looked back.

Each shoe gets its own unique experience when it comes into contact with McKoy. He pays attention to detail and makes sure to leave his customers satisfied. Using a toothbrush, he is cleaning the tongue of the shoe– something that does not even show that much– because he cares. (Staff photos by Taylor Mabrey)

McKoy is constantly getting honks and waves because he’s clearly friends with pretty much everyone that goes by. He has unique relationships with people and each person that sits in the chair will come out with a unique shine.

If McKoy is not pacing the street, he is in his chair relaxing between customers. Sometimes he is quiet here, but other times he is telling a story to me or whomever is passing through. (Staff photos by Taylor Mabrey)

“I hopped in the chair… five star quality,” Durham resident Roderick Franklan said. Sitting in the chair is such an experience– especially with McKoy. The customer will leave filled with laughter, knowledge and even a great looking pair of shoes. He is always telling a story or cracking a joke, which is probably why Durham residents have described him as a staple to the community.

McKoy has been doing this ever since he was a kid, so it’s obvious he loves what he does. He has impacted many lives of those that have wanted or needed a shine, whether it was giving them a smile or just being a friend.

His favorite part of doing this job is “the smile they have” when he gets finished, he said. McKoy is only happy when he sees that the customer is happy. As he says, “if you don’t like the shine, you don’t pay a dime.” His customers had nothing bad to say about him; every person who walked by had good words for him, such as how he is a great guy and he truly is a huge part of this community.

So, if you are ever in need of a pick-me-up conversation or an amazing shine, McKoy invites Durham to stop by and get to know him.


McKoy works his magic with the shoe shine rag. The rhythm produced by this is unlike anything I have ever heard, and watching this was quite a sight. Each shoe looks brand new after this finished touch is done. He believes in doing honest work and says that is how you get people to trust you. “Tell the people what you’re going to do,” McKoy says. (Staff photos by Taylor Mabrey)


McKoy lays out his materials every morning when he sets up his chair on the side of the street. This includes each polish, his brushes, his rag, and the act of hanging up his jacket on a nearby pole. His materials are worn yet he uses the same set for a long time. He takes so much pride in his work. (Staff photos by Taylor Mabrey)


“I’m tired and I’m poor,” McKoy says after a while without a customer. He usually will take people and not even charge them– he merely asks for donations most of the time rather than a set price. McKoy does this every day from about 9 to 5, so he will take what he can get on bad days. (Staff photos by Taylor Mabrey)

12 thoughts on “Meet the real McKoy

  1. This is the first article that I have read from The Voice. It is very nice as I expected. Jock is doing a most impressive job. Keep up the good work all!

  2. Excellent journalism and photography! I feel like I know him and would enjoy talking to him. Awesome human interest story.

  3. Good job, Taylor! This is the first thing you’ve written that I’ve ever read. Hope I’ll be able to read a lot more now that I know where to find your work. Mr. McKoy sounds like a sweet and humble man.

  4. Fantastic piece on such a wonderful part of Durham culture! What a heartwarming story, reminding us there are still wonderful people in the world. Great journalism!

  5. Morris McWilliams says:

    Well I know Pierce and if he did not share this with you he is an incredible singer. Me and Pierce had a singing group back in the 80’s and he helped me write my wedding song “We Are Married” in 1984. If you can get this message to him I would love to speak with him so if you would please ask him to call Morris at 917-806-0234. Thanks

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