NEW YORK - Nick Mahoney never thought he'd shine anyone's shoes.
But five years ago, the long-time attorney was desperate. He was battling addiction and out of a job.
"As a lawyer, I thought, I'm not gonna shine somebody's shoes. I should get my shoes shined," Mahoney said.
He changed his mind after meeting Kevin Tuohy, a recovered alcoholic himself, who founded the Shoeshine Guild 23 years ago after he had been introduced to shoe shinning at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in San Francisco.
Like Mahoney, he initially had no interest in shining shoes.
"Never. Never, ever," he recalled.
Until he realized the job was actually the perfect fit.
"I'm Irish. I got the gift of gab. I love making connections with people. And I'm also an artist, so I get to talk to people and create a work of art," Tuohy said.
The Shoeshine Guild now has 30 employees, half of them are people who are recovering from substance abuse issues. Tuohy and his business partners say those with past alcohol or drug problems are drawn to the craft is because it's low-stress, helps build self-esteem and keeps them focused.
"It's very important to get out of your head because you're just so self-centered and self-conscious and caught up in like why you don't feel good and so to be able to interact with a human is essential - it's life-saving," said Jessica Middendorf, General Manager of The Shoeshine Guild.
The company has locations in three cities - San Francisco, Osaka, Japan and in New York, where it has stands at LaGuardia Airport and in the Chelsea Market.
The founders hope the company keeps growing and helping people like Nick Mahoney, who is now back practicing law, but still shining shoes for a few hours every day.
"They gave me structure, and there's something about shining shoes that gives you structure//you gain some confidence and get some self-esteem back and you think maybe I’m not that bad. Maybe i can do other things aside from this," Mahoney said.
It's a craft that has helped to add shine to a rebuilt life.