Black business owner takes advantage of online fundraiser to keep shoe repair shop afloat
Tommy Rhine has been repairing shoes in Denver for over 40 years. But three months of the COVID-19 pandemic have pushed the Rhine shoemaker to the brink of closure.
Over the course of her decades-long career, Rhine has repaired shoes for Broncos and Nuggets players, as well as doctors and lawyers at Rhine’s Shoe & Boot Repair. But he’s worried about keeping his business afloat.
“I deal primarily with downtown business people,” Rhine said. “A lot of these people aren’t working right now, so they don’t need shoes.”
Rhine said it had been about four months since he had been able to pay his store’s rent due to lack of business. He said he was applying for small business loans, but had yet to hear anything in return.
Tommy Rhine Jr., Rhine’s oldest son, recently put a sign in the window reading “Black Owned Business” when the downtown protests began in May. The idea was to promote support for the business and deter people from destroying its store.
Rhine Sr. did not participate in the Black Lives Matter protests downtown, but he said he was more active in the 1960s as a young man. Rhine Sr. said he had to get on the back of the bus and remembers the separate water fountains. When he moved to Denver in 1970, he said he was often arrested by the police.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been profiled … just to be black,” he said. “They called it DWB, driving in black, and it’s true.”
Ryan Warner of CPR tweeted about the Rhine store on Friday. Hours later Jeff Engelken, a friend of the Rhine family, noticed how much attention was drawn to the post. Some of the responses asked about the location and how they might help. It was then that Engelken contacted Tommy Rhine Jr. “TJ” and suggested that he do a GoFundMe to help his father.
“I know Mr. Rhine is a proud man so I wasn’t sure if this was something he would want to do, but it looked like he wanted to go all the way and it was really cool to see the answer and the number of people. make a donation, ”Engelken said.
As of Sunday afternoon, he had raised nearly $ 7,000 of his goal of $ 8,000.
“I feel blessed,” said Rhine Sr. “I feel really good about it. Suddenly people start to come together.
Rhine Sr. said he didn’t know what else he would do if he ever went out of his way.
“I love it,” he says. “It’s creative work, it’s like making art,” he says.
Julia James, a lifelong Denverite, stumbled upon Rhine’s story. A friend of hers posted Rhine’s story and tagged James to let him know what was going on. After that, she went to her store.
“We need to support our black-owned businesses,” she said. “And [he’s] the wonderful shoemaker, who is a lost art.
She bought him two pairs of shoes and asked if everything was okay if she shared her story on her Facebook page and started a fundraiser. Rhine accepted and now that Fundraising reached half of her goal of $ 1,000 in one day.