Royal Zeno Shoe Shine lost its place in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport after 60 years in business.
MINNEAPOLIS – An old shoe shine business will polish its last pairs in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
In a unanimous vote on Monday afternoon, the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) awarded a three-year contract solely to DG Express Professional Shoe Shine.
As a result, Royal Zeno Shoe Shine comes out after 60 years.
“Very emotional… I’m hurt. I don’t even have words right now because it’s hurt, it’s anger, it’s disappointment. There’s a lot of emotion going on right now,” said Rosemary Zeno, owner of Royal Zeno Shoe. Shine and daughter of royal Zeno.
Royal Zeno started his business at the airport in 1962. The business made national news when in 1998, MAC wanted a new retailer. Royal fought it and won. After he died in 2008, Rosemary continued her father’s legacy.
But Monday’s meeting had a different outcome.
Currently, DG Express has two stands while Royal Zeno has three.
MSP Airport will go from five shoe shine stands to three.
“We had an extremely high number of shoe shiners for the level of service,” said Isabella Rhawie, assistant director of concessions and business development at MAC.
The Request for Proposals (RFP) process began earlier this year with a selection committee comprised of CCC staff and a CCC commissioner.
The group evaluated the proposals using criteria that weighed customer experience and overall management and operations experience over other factors, such as rent, and made a recommendation to award a concession agreement to one of the three proposing vendors.
“The revenue side wasn’t as important because not many people are using this particular service. So they started looking at things like customer service. How do customers feel? Do they present themselves well? Do customers feel good about it? And then the way the business is managed. When all those things were put together and voted on by the committee, they decided to go with the other operator,” Commissioner Richard Ginsberg explained.
Both DG Express and Royal Zeno are black-owned businesses. During the meeting, Gloria Weinblatt asked, “Why are you pitting minority business against minority business?”
More details after the decision will be made public once the contract is finalized.
“Change is not easy and certainly there were a lot of people passionate about it, but I believe the staff did the right thing. I think they did their due diligence. I think we tried to understand some of the reasons why the recommendation was made the way it was,” Ginsberg said.
After the vote, Rosemary told KARE 11, “I’ve been stabbed in the back. Yes, I have. I’m angry.”
The change will affect 11 employees of Royal Zeno Shoe Shine.
After 24 years with the company, Sherman Gray will have to find a new job.
“I’m very disappointed right now. I still have bills to pay. I don’t have a job. Twenty-four years… I don’t have a job. I’m sad,” Gray said.
According to Rosemary, their last day at MSP Airport will be September 30. They will continue to operate at Union Depot in St. Louis. Paul.
“I’ll keep my head up and carry on,” said Rosemary. “The Royal Zeno Shoe Shine legacy will live on. We will continue.”
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