Kevin Tuohy is a founding partner and shoe shiner at the Shoeshine Guild. This is a company that he founded in 1996 by shining shoes at conventions and special events. He took on a partner and recruited friends to work with him. This company offers a retro experience along with a great shoe shine. The shiners are in huge demand and are also expert swing dancers in this retro industry. Kevin has a common bond with his founding crew, because they were all recovering alcoholics.
In this entertaining and moving episode, Kevin talks about his upbringing in New York in the 1970s, and belonging to different gangs on the East and West coast. He talks about his Irish upbringing, moving to San Francisco when he was a teenager, joining the Army at 17, and how he began drinking and then was struck by sobriety. This powerful episode will induce tears of laughter and tears of emotion as Kevin shares his story. We broke this episode into two parts. Part one is Kevin’s story up until he decided to get sober. Part two continues his story as he shares what life has been like since getting sober and starting his business.
[07:36] Kevin is Andre's next door neighbor.
[08:20] Kevin got sober in 1998.
[11:30] He is up for a small business award at the Irish Echo.
[12:03] When he was 16, his family moved to San Francisco. Young Kevin didn't like it there. He was in a gang in New York and then joined a gang in San Francisco.
[15:21] The first time Kevin got drunk was in California in 1977.
[17:44] He went to the Fame school in Harlem. He didn't like it. Kevin wanted to be a comic book artist. He then started hanging out with the kids and drinking all day. He was 13.
[22:37] His gang member friends were mostly children of Black Panthers.
[23:46] One of Kevin's friends encouraged him to join the Army. He went to Germany and began to see the world. He was 17. He also just began drinking. He jumped out of helicopters and was a machine gunner.
[27:28] After 32 months, his tour was done.
[28:45] Kevin shares how he got stabbed and made the mistake of messing with a catheter in the hospital.
[29:36] He was 20 when he returned to the States. After a Tijuana trip gone bad, it may have been time to talk about getting sober.
[32:21] Kevin knew something was wrong and tried a process suggested by his sister where he had a white light spiritual experience. This is when he heard a voice say he had a problem with drugs and alcohol.
[33:48] This is when he decided that he wanted to be sober.
[34:37] It was like a switch. He was struck sober and hasn't had a drink in 30 years.
[02:07] Kevin wasn't happy with himself. He went to the event that his sisters had talked him into going to. He walked into a dark room and they started doing creative visualization.
[02:28] As Kevin was walking through his emotional junkyard, he had a white light experience. His eyes were closed and he saw a light. He also heard a voice say Kevin you have a problem with drugs and alcohol. He then started having the thought that he didn't want to drink anymore. He wanted to be sober.
[03:31] This was August 16th, 1988. He started telling everyone that he is sober. It was like a switch, he had no desire to drink.
[05:14] He had so much energy, he didn't know what to do. He was overwhelmed with a wave of hatred towards past grievances. All of his feelings bubbled to the surface.
[06:51] He started going to meetings, praying, working out, and looking for any help he could get.
[07:53] He smoked two to three packs a day. He also worked as a bar back. He was searching for something and running out of things to do.
[09:39] Six years later, he became suicidal. Until he met a new woman. She taught him to take a written inventory, and he discovered that the 12 steps really did work.
[16:06] Kevin became an overzealous AA advocate and really tried to convince everybody he knew to get involved.
[17:30] After getting out of the army, Kevin said that he would never shine another pair of shoes, but this woman who he met was actually a shoeshiner. He tried shoe-shining, and he loved it.
[18:32] He started managing a shoeshine stand in San Francisco. He hired all of his friends, and they became the sober shoeshine crew.
[19:54] He ended up wanting to buy the shop. He put together a business plan and his professional customers helped him.
[22:24] They built beautiful chairs, and he had one stand. He ended up buying another stand and then another. They started swing dancing and shining. They did eight seasons with the Giants, and then took over the Moscone Convention Center. They grew and did conventions all over the country.
[24:35] He got a call from JetBlue, and they asked him to open up a stand at JFK. This was how Kevin ended up back in New York after being in San Francisco for so long.
[27:32] They were voted best shoeshine in the world by Vanity Fair. They also took over a shop in Chelsea Market where Kevin spends most of his time now.
[28:37] They also have a shop at Delta in LaGuardia. They also have a shop in the tallest building in San Francisco. What has happened with his business has been amazing for Kevin.
[29:53] Kevin authentically shows up as himself. He loves expanding his business and just opened up a shop in Osaka, Japan.
[31:19] Kevin and Andre are next door neighbors. People come to him for very custom work.
[33:52] There is a lot of help out there. Don't be afraid to look for what will help you and ask questions. You can even hit up Kevin.
[34:51] Kevin loves helping people and believes in self-examination, prayer, and meditation. Writing and meditating are so powerful.