Giuseppe never thought of his job as a very important one.
Yet being a shoemaker in 1954’s Manhattan was indeed just that.
Since this was the height of the Broadway era and countless musicals and plays were being produced, shoemakers were called upon to supply dancers with shiny, sturdy shoes that could withstand the test of 6 nightly shows per week.
Right beneath the bright lights of Broadway, Giuseppe’s small shoe repair shop became a beacon of hope for a dancer’s lifeblood: their feet.
Showgirls, tap dancers and chorus types would travel to Giuseppe so he could meticulously fix their broken heels, ripped soles or frayed shoelaces.
The performers usually ran in and out with their shoes in a hurry. And Giuseppe never paid much attention to them since he always had a busy schedule with worn-out shoes that just couldn’t wait. Seeing how the curtain always went up at 8 o’clock, the shoes had to be ready by then…or else.
One cold, snowy December evening while Giuseppe was in the back repairing a pair of ballet shoes, the usual chime of the shop’s door rang.
Another customer. Giuseppe barely looked up from his work bench.
However, much to his surprise, in walked the most interesting customer he had ever seen.
The ballet shoes could wait.
This customer was a woman dressed in a purple, velvet coat that cascaded down to her ankles. Her coat’s collar was lined by a lavish, gray fur that warmed her chilly, pink cheeks. Sitting atop her raven-colored curls was a lavender felt beret that beared a gold pin, in the form of a bunch of grapes.
As the woman gently brushed off the melting snow from her coat, Giuseppe couldn’t help but admire her lovely long fingers, wrapped in beige leather gloves.
The woman came to the counter, holding a pair of silver tap shoes. Giuseppe figured she must be a new Broadway dancer since she’d never come to his shop before.
Her voice was soft yet confident as she asked him to fix the broken tap on her left shoe.
Giuseppe nervously wrote up the receipt for this lovely customer. He swallowed hard and got up the courage to inquire more about her.
“You’re a new dancer in town, eh?”
“Um, yes.. I’ve just been hired for a role in the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical down the block.”
“Oh, that’s a great show! Congratulations! I bet you’re the best dancer they’ve got!”
The woman looked a bit embarrassed by the shoemaker’s enthusiastic compliment. She cleared her throat.
“So, how much will the shoe repair cost?”
“Oh, that’ll be 2 dollars. You can pick them up tomorrow at 5.”
Giuseppe was eager to see the woman again in his store.
Yet, instead, she asked him to simply drop her shoes off at the theatre door since she’d be in rehearsals all day long. Giuseppe usually didn’t make special deliveries, but for this customer, he’d make an exception.
“Whose name should I mention when I drop off the shoes?”
“Rose. My name is Rose.”
That night, Giuseppe carefully fixed Rose’s broken left tap shoe. All the while, thoughts of fragrant, purple roses filled his head. He remarked to himself how fitting her name was.
Rose. A beautiful flower for a beautiful lady.
The next evening, Giuseppe closed the shop and hurriedly walked over to the theatre where Rose was performing at 8 o’clock. He held her silver tap shoes tightly in his arms, along with one long-stemmed purple rose he’d picked up at the florist.
Giuseppe’s jaw clenched tightly in anxious excitement as he neared the stage door. He hoped to catch a glimpse of Rose in order to present her with the gift, himself.
But alas, Giuseppe’s hopes were dashed as the security guard at the stage door wouldn’t allow him inside. The guard quickly grabbed Rose’s shoes and the flower, shutting the stage door on Giuseppe.
Fearing he’d never see the charming dancer again, Giuseppe decided to buy a ticket for the following evening’s performance…
8 o’clock finally arrived and Giuseppe was first in line at the ticket booth. The theatre matron ushered him to a seat in the very last row. After all, Broadway tickets were expensive for a simple shoemaker in New York.
As the theatre lights dimmed and the curtain went up, Giuseppe’s heart beat faster than the orchestra’s percussion section.
He immediately spied Rose, standing in the front line of the chorus. She wore a glittering, silver gown embellished with a red sash, tied around her waist. Rose’s tap shoes shone brightly as she sailed across the floor in syncopated rhythm with the other dancers.
Suddenly, the music drowned out and everyone else on stage was a blur. In a haze of amorous emotion, Giuseppe’s eyes focused only on Rose.
Even though Rose never did come back to his shoe repair shop, Giuseppe never lost hope of seeing her again.
So every night thereafter, at 8 o’clock sharp, Giuseppe went to the stage door to bring Rose a single purple rose.
And even though he was met each night by the guard’s disapproving gaze, Giuseppe prayed that just once, he’d be allowed inside to give Rose the gift in person…and to explain how he felt about her.
One night in particular, as 8 o’clock rolled around again, Giuseppe found a puzzling sight at the stage door. It was locked and unattended. There was no guard in sight.
Giuseppe grew curious as to why the guard wasn’t at his usual post. He waited and waited for what seemed like an eternity. He didn’t want to go without leaving the rose for Rose.
Just then, he heard footsteps coming from the other side of the stage door. Ah, surely it would be the same grumpy guard again.
But as the door creaked open, Giuseppe’s eyes grew wide and his smile even wider.
Rose’s silver tap shoes don’t quite fit her very well anymore and her legs don’t glide around as easily as they used to.
Yet she hasn’t lost the sparkle in her eye when she thinks about those glorious days, dancing on Broadway.
And Giuseppe is there to remind her of it too.
I saw this couple at the bus stop recently…and took their photo.
Maybe he’s Giuseppe and maybe she’s Rose?
They inspired me to write this story.