THIRD STREET PROMENADE It looks as if Christmas came early for Andy Waller.
A fixture on the Third Street Promenade for well over a decade, Waller was on the verge of losing his shoe shine business as he was seriously behind in rent, owing City Hall more than $960. Waller was given several opportunities to pay, but he couldn’t seem to get caught up. He had until Nov. 16 to raise the cash.
After a story about his predicament ran in the Daily Press, Waller, whose rent is $107.68 a month, said several Los Angeles area news shows came out to interview him. Once the segments aired, donations started pouring in. Waller was able to raise the money needed to clear his debts and pay his rent for the month of December, city officials said.
Now Waller can focus on shining shoes and directing tourists to points of interest in Downtown.
“There are some really special people out there,” Waller said Wednesday as he was removing a piece of gum from a customer’s black leather boots. “That’s what it’s all about, people helping people.”
Waller said several people stopped by his stand to offer words of encouragement or cash. Some donated $5 while others gave more. Some handed over $50 or $100. One man, whom Waller referred to only as “Mr. Tom from Long Beach,” gave a significant donation. Waller did not disclose the amount, but he said it was substantial, helping him get over the hump.
Santa Monica City Councilman Kevin McKeown donated $50, saying in a letter to the Daily Press that he wanted to help protect a small business that had roots in Santa Monica.
When Waller was in jeopardy, there was talk of replacing him with another operator and possibly moving the shoe shine stand, which City Hall owns, to another location within Downtown to attract more business. Donna Rickman, a senior development analyst for City Hall who has been working with Waller, said moving the stand is still an option. She will be talking with Waller and the Bayside District Corp. to gather feedback. Bayside is a public-private management company that helps market and maintain Downtown for City Hall.
Waller, who took over the operation from Ernie Whitehead, who in turn took over the stand in 1993 for Bob Jones, said business picks up in the winter and hopes the trend continues so that he may be able to do something for others in return for the generosity he received.
“I believe in people,” Waller said. “Their kindness towards me really touched my heart. I just want to tell other people that they shouldn’t be afraid to step up and help each other.”