About Us

WELCOME TO SHOE’S CUP & CORK

Our Story

shoes coffee bar interiorWhether you’re eating inside in the Café or Poker Room (upstairs), or outside in the Secret Garden, Cabanas or at the Bocce Court (down the alley next door to the building), or if you’re in a rush and just enjoying our take-out service, we want you to know that serving you is a labor of love. We love the concept of serving you high-quality food and drinks in an authentic setting that harkens back to a simpler time.

 

As best as we can tell, this building was constructed around 1880 and included what is now the Café and the Poker Room. Until the early 1920s, the building was used as the Leesburg Post Office, the town’s first telephone office, and even as a new car showroom. The large windows at the front were designed to open to allow cars in and out of the building.

 

In the early 1920s, Vincenzo Ranieri stopped off for lunch in Leesburg on his way from Sicily to Bluemont and decided to establish his American shoe repair and hat cleaning business here. The neon SHOES sign was installed in the 1940s as a promotion for Red Goose Shoes. Instead of changing the historic sign, we named the restaurant Shoe’s. The photo on the drop-down shade in front of the counter is of Vincenzo sometime in the late 1940s.

 

In 1973, Armenian-American Hartoun (“Arthur”) Varouganian, purchased the business and renamed it “Arthur’s Shoe Repair.” Vincenzo’s daughter, however, continued to live in the second-floor apartment for many years after the business changed hands. In 2005, Arthur’s closed and the building sat vacant until Karen fell in love with it.

 

During the conversion from a shoe repair shop to a restaurant, we tried to preserve and repurpose materials and other items that had been left behind. Wood from the old shelving was used to make new shelving; marble from the old shoeshine stand was reworked to provide countertops and the brass foot rests from the stand were relocated to the front window. The “Shoe Repairs” and “New Shoes” signs were reconditioned and various light fixtures and historic building hardware were incorporated into the décor.

 

During our original construction, we noticed the heel of a shoe sticking out from the rubble of a wall, with a tag that had a due date of December 31, 1928, and a repair fee of $1.00 for a new heel that seems to have been completed. When the rightful owner shows up with the claim tag, the storage fee, and $1, we will gladly return it. Until then, it is the centerpiece of our Café chandelier.

 

In 2014, to create extra indoor seating space, we converted the upstairs apartment into the “Poker Room,” an idea we got one night—and we’re not proud of this—after losing our bankroll at the Charles Town Race Track. We were able to acquire a chandelier, which hung in the Chicago Athletic Association during the 1920s, where Al Capone famously spent his leisure time. In an effort to honor the history of the space, we decided to feature antiques we had collected over a period of years. The Philco “Radiobar,” was created during prohibition to conceal the “bar” in the event the police showed up uninvited. While we have no evidence that the shop was ever used for any illegal activity, we just figured that they wouldn’t have bothered building a jail across the street if somebody wasn’t up to something.

 

The portrait above the front stairwell is of Thomas E. Dewey from the late 1930s when he served as a special prosecutor for New York County. He was known for going after racketeers, extortionists and numbers game rings, but was most famous for winning the conviction of New York crime boss “Lucky Luciano.” We hung photos of Al Capone and Lucky Luciano just below Dewey, where it seems Dewey is looking straight down at them. Dewey is also known for two failed presidential runs in 1944 and 1948. Though he lost both times, the Chicago Daily Tribune, trusting the unreliable pollsters of their day released into circulation their famous front-page headline “Dewey Defeats Truman.” See if you can figure out who else graces the stairwell.

 

The painting above the Radiobar is an oil-on-canvas reproduction of what is considered to be one of the most famous paintings in American sports. It depicts a fight between Jack Dempsey, who had held the heavyweight title since 1919, against Luis Angel Firpo, “The Bull of the Pampas,” on September 14, 1923 at Chicago’s Soldier Field, in front of an audience of over 80,000 fans, one of whom was none other than Al Capone. In the first round, despite having been knocked down seven times, Firpo delivered a devastating right hand blow to Dempsey’s chin that sent him through the ropes and out of the ring. Dempsey recovered and after both men continued to swap brutal punches, Dempsey managed to end the fight by knocking Firpo out at the 57-second mark of the second round. The fight has been described as “the most savage two minutes in boxing history”.

 

The Poker Room space recalls the 1920s and early 1930s. While it is not intended to replicate the “Card Rooms” at the Chicago Athletic Association, great attention was given to design and build accurately for the that period, for every architectural and décor element. Our goal was not to just have a few elements of Art Deco, but to actually create an iconic look and feel, as if the space had not been altered since its original construction. Colors, moldings, hardware, materials and fixtures all reflect what would have been in place during Prohibition. The floors, handrail and balustrade were constructed from reclaimed wood originally laid in 1906. The exit lights are from the 1930s. The hallway and stair “schoolhouse” hanging fixtures are original from the 1920s. The two-arm sconces were originally fueled by natural gas in the late 1800s and were probably converted to electricity sometime during the 1920s. The blackboards were reclaimed from an elementary school built during the 1920s in Western Maryland. Even the “low tank” toilet, “console” sink and mirror in the upstairs water closet are all original pieces from the 1920s. With curved panels of richly stained red oak, black wood and fabric components and accents of aged brass and gold, the Poker Room represents the more sophisticated side of the “Roaring Twenties.”

 

We tried to avoid the ordinary in many other ways. We loved playing cards and board games—like Backgammon, Scrabble and Monopoly—with our kids as they were growing up. We know we can’t go back, but we really get vicarious pleasure by seeing our friends enjoying such simple pleasures.

 

Please try our curated wines and craft beers, our house-roasted fair-trade coffees, our wholesome recipes finished off with our organic homemade ice creams, and Mom’s award-winning Apple Pies. Put your iPhone down and play a game your grandparents played.

 

And, please know that we are honored and happy that you are here with us in our town “hangout,” where you’re a part of the “sole” of Leesburg.

 

With love,

Fred & Karen