By Ben Bilinski ’23, Staff Writer
Born and raised in Rochester, Manny Rivera is a St. John Fisher Student as well as the owner of a dorm-operated shoe cleaning business. He cleans, repaints, and details shoes. Recently, his best friend and co-owner of SoleFein was shot.
SoleFein was started in early 2018 by Rivera and one of his best friends. Like any small business, you need to find a need for what you are giving the community. He started out doing numerous tasks — cleaning, detailing, and repainting shoes for just his friends and family. As he got more of a following on social media his business started to boom. The business’ Instagram page has over 2.9k followers. SoleFein also sells, buys and restores shoes.
Rivera built his business from the ground up. He started cleaning his family’s shoes to build up clientele in the Rochester area that spans pretty much the whole city. The question people ask Rivera the most is about the price of his service. If your shoes are beaten up then the price will be higher in comparison to relatively cleaner shoes. When he gets a pair of shoes he goes right to his shoe station for a surface cleaning. He then checks out whether or not the shoes are in need of a deeper cleaning, getting the creases out or a new paint job.
When asked if the shoe business was a type of outlet. Rivera said, “Yes, of course, that is the big thing. That is one of the reasons why I enjoy doing it and starting it. Not just for the passion of like art and stuff like that but I just started it to get away from everything.”
Growing up in the inner-city of Rochester Rivera said he faced a big decision that would change his life:He could either stay on the streets and be in and out of trouble or he could make a name for himself and do something he is actually passionate about. Living in Rochester his whole life Rivera has seen violence occur at alarming rates. According to a study done by the Rochester Institute of Technology, there were a reported 28 homicides in 2018 alone. With everything going on around Rivera, including shootings, drug deals, and violence, in general, it made him want to strive to be a better person not only for himself but for his family, he said.
Recently the co-owner of SoleFein — Rivera’s best friend — was a victim of a shooting. “He was just at the wrong place at the wrong time, he was coming outside of a store around Halloween and he just got mistaken for someone he wasn’t and then it just happened.” His friend made a full recovery but it has been a long journey for him. “These times will either break you or make you.”
Rivera said he was in class one day and he got a phone call from his friend who was “all like wired up, tubes through his mouth,” so he could only whisper. He recalls it was sad because he wanted to ask him questions about the situation but he couldn’t talk or breathe that well. But with the few words he had for Rivera, he said that he loved him and that if anything happened to him to keep the business going. “It kinda just showed the person he was.” With his friend in the hospital, Rivera said that it broke him to hear his best friend say all those things. After the shooting happened it made him realize anything can happen to the closest people in your life and made him appreciate the little things.