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Mr. Zhu, Cobbler

“There’s nobody left in Chinatown, is there?”

By Anelise Chen

What do you do?
I fix shoes! I can fix shoes, polish them, stretch them—I can do anything that has to do with shoes.

Do you ever take days off?
If it’s raining I will relax at home. No need to come out here when it’s raining. I’m lucky, aren’t I? I have freedom, I can make my own hours. It’s not like I have to go to an office and report to someone. I have all the freedom in the world.

You work outdoors—on the sidewalk! What do you do when it snows?
Oh, I don’t work during the winter. I go back to Hong Kong. My family is there.

How long have you worked as a cobbler on 8th Avenue?
For about twelve years. Oh, yes! A lot has changed in twelve years. There weren’t that many people here, twelve years ago. Just a few shops, barely any pedestrians. Now it’s even more lively than [Manhattan] Chinatown! There’s nobody left in Chinatown, is there?

Oh, I live in Chinatown and it seems like there’s too many people, especially when I’m in a hurry.
That’s good. Most of the newcomers are from Fuzhou. Here, too! About 80 percent of the newcomers are from Fuzhou. You know where that is, right?

Yes, I do. And where are you from?

May I take your picture?
What do you want my picture for? It won’t look good! [Passersby: Yes! You look good! Let her take your picture!] Okay, okay, you can take my picture. What should I do? Just look at the camera?