Shine Service 

Phillip Byron Jones

© Copyright 2017 by Phillip Byron Jones


Photo of Percy in 2016.


There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end, it leads to death.” Proverbs, 14:12 and 16:25.

Percy’s familiarity with death did not end with his siblings. The losses Percy endured with his family paled when compared to those he later suffered.


When I was a boy my father was the consummate mentor. He taught me how to bait a hook, sight a rifle scope, pack a suitcase and get a clean shave without a cut. He was also adamant that laziness separated men from a gentleman. A gentleman acted a certain way, and always – always, had a high shine on his shoes. Years later, as a lawyer, and because dress shoes are a necessity, the need for a good shine was tantamount. And, with that, I stumbled into Shine Service and met a man that now, 25 years later, I’m glad to call friend. For the past 25 years Shine Service (and Percy), have been a regular part of my weekly ritual; no different than having lunch.

I am a partner in a Nashville law firm, and as a result, dress shoes are a part of my life. In 1991, I paid a few dollars for a Percy shine. From there, I entered into an odd but genuine friendship. Thus, I’ve thought for years that it would be tragic if the spirit behind Shine Service came and went, and so I decided to commit to word the story of the force behind it. I suppose in a way that I am ghostwriting the abbreviated memoir of Robert Person, Sr., a/k/a “Percy” and his shoe shop in downtown Nashville, which is known simply as “Shine Service.”

Shine Service, Percy.” That’s what Percy says, every time the phone rings. Shine Service is both a noun and a verb, in that it is who Percy is, and it is what Percy does. But, and as he states with conviction, “it’s not a shoe shine stand and it’s not a shoe parlor . . . I’m a shine service.” As he added, “I shine, I stain, I can do anything.”

Percy was born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1937 to Bertha Mae Person. “Hell, I never even knew my dad,” he added. However, he knew his mother intimately. He conveyed, with warmness, his opinions of his mother when he told me about his childhood. “Miss Percy” as everyone called her, was a religious person. She never drank and she never smoked. His mother was a cook and a baker. On the side, she made extra cash as an entrepreneur. According to Percy, his mother would save money and then buy soda, pigskins and chips, in bulk, and sell them off her front porch, on Jefferson Street, on credit. She sold to addicts, who would (according to Percy) “pay her back once their check came in.” She sold those items on a mark-up and then charged interest on those sales. According to Percy, Bertha Mae became renowned in the black community off of Jefferson Street and in the non-black community, as well. . . .  

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