In the low-slung, pinkish Dominion Hills Centre shopping strip, sandwiched between a pharmacy and a soccer store, passers-by can find a store offering an unlikely pairing.
It’s a shoe repair place and a skate shop called Kiko’s Professional Services (6021 Wilson Blvd).
The place is run by Alvaro Pessotti, who immigrated to Arlington from Brazil in the 1980s. He started shining shoes out of a hotel in 1989, offering overnight services for customers. Then, Pessotti began shining shoes at conventions, in food courts and in Reagan National Airport.
“I provided shining to members of the House of Representatives for nine years,” he said. “That was a great opportunity, you know, it opened a lot of doors. I was right in the corridor to get to the White House. I have a lot of business here with the government.”
He has worked in D.C. and in Arlington since he moved to Crystal City in 1983. The longtime Arlingtonian said he has only moved once since then — to Cherrydale, where he has lived in the same house since 1986.
With people working from home, not traveling for their jobs and preferring casual wear, Pessotti says the pandemic has been bad for lots of shoe repair businesses, and he has watched some businesses close for good. A few places have closed in Arlington over the last year, coronavirus-related and not: On Lee Highway, COVID-19 sped up the closure of decades-old shoe repair shop Sam Torrey Shoe Service, and in January 2020 a dry cleaner in Clarendon that offered shoe repairs also announced it would be closing.
Pessotti says there are a few reasons he stays afloat.
“I like what I do,” he said. “I think that is what makes the difference. Plus, the volume is not big right now, and I can turn things around quickly.”
The other reason was a business idea his son came up with soon after Pessotti opened Kiko’s in 2000: selling skateboard supplies. The store started offering skateboarding gear when the Powhatan Springs Skatepark opened across the street (6020 Wilson Blvd) in 2004. The park reopened in 2019 after a complete overhaul.
“He came to me saying, ‘Why don’t we get into this business?’ I tell you it was a great idea,” he said.
Still, business could be better.
“If I was just in shoe repair, I should be closed by now. But even with skateboard, business, it’s much lower than it used to be,” he said.
Pessotti said he hopes that after Labor Day people will return from summer vacations and needing shine and repair services for their work shoes. At the airport, he said there is little business travel to keep shoe shine going.
“It’s interesting — it’s a lot of people traveling, but it’s no business, all casual shoes,” he said.
Locals on social media have lauded Pessotti’s ability to rehabilitate everything from leather handbags to sandals, and encouraged others to take their shoes there.
“He saved a pair of Tory Burch wedges I was about to throw out!” one poster said.
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