By Robert Beck
I’ve wanted to paint in Tip-Top Shoes ever since I walked through the front door years ago. Few places shape the Upper West Side as they do.
It’s not always practical to set up my painting kit in a business. Real estate is at a premium in NYC; there are some shops (think: where they make keys and repair shoes) where the entire waiting area is smaller than my easel. Tip-Top was tight, but I’m good with tight.
It’s also not always easy to gain access, but some owners like the idea of there being an artistic record of the business. Lester Wasserman did, and he gave me a green light with no hesitation. Then it was up to me to select a spot with an iconic view of the interior that didn’t put me in anybody’s way. I opted to paint from the back, past the counter, by the socks.
Tip-Top is a shoe store for shoe people. The staff has been there forever, and not only do they know style and construction, they know feet. They are pleasant, helpful, and patient. I painted during the early afternoon, supposedly their slowest time, and they were still busy. Nobody stopped moving. I had to invent that part of the painting. The staff enjoyed watching the image emerge, and I made a bunch of friends.
One of the salespeople, Harold, has taken care of my wife for a long time. She first noticed him when he demonstrated a fancy step to a customer. She asked if he was a dancer, he said yes, and they ended up doing a cha-cha in the aisle near the Birkenstocks. My wife has purchased a lot of walking shoes and gorgeous heels from him over time. She’s not just an excellent dancer. She’s a shoe person.
Read all of our Weekend Columns here. Read our recent story about Tip Top Shoes here.
This is a great store and they really do know feet. Nice to be able to walk comfortably for miles and miles and still look stylish.
A love story-within-a-painting to a shoe store and to your wife!
Wow, what a great painting, I have a real feeling for it; it’s quite an evocation of commerce & life.
Everything appears to be in motion; the shoes themselves, the lighting fixtures, all are dynamic, competing for our attention and yet are also still -frozen in time- a now documented part of the historical record and of course a powerful personal statement, like all fine art.
Thank you for letting me see it.
Damn, I forgot to ask; Robert Beck, is this painting being shown at the Tip Top Shoe Store, or where, exactly?
When and if I find a new studio, my local work will be available there to see in person.
So wonderful! Thanks for this — all of it
You are very welcome. Painting is my ticket into wonderful places. I love sharing the encounter.
I’m old enough to remember INDIAN WALK shoes on Broadway around 84th st. Don’t recall the exact location.
I still have my shoes that are from that store. My mom had them bronzed. I’m now 67.
Indian Walk was where Maison Pickle is now. Broadway near 84th st
Yeah, what’s sad is, once they bronze your shoes the comfort factor goes completely out the window; on the bright side they’ll probably hit the spot as paperweights, if you think outside the shoe box.
How nice that you painted my favorite store. And thank you. I’ve been a customer for more than 45 years and for as long as I can remember Harold has been my go-to guy for shoes. “Harold, do these come wide enough for my foot?” “Nope. Forgot those. Try these instead.”
Where is this store?
72nd Street between Columbus and Amsterdam on the north side of the street.
I love this! The painting captures the light of Tip Top Shoes perfectly.
I really like the Robert Beck paintings WSR has been featuring, and I very much hope he finds a new studio.
What a great painting!!!! Thank you, Robert.
There are few places that are still a constant on the Upper West Side. Shops come and go. They relocate. They re-size. They go out of business.
TipTop has been a staple for generations. I loved it the day I first walked through it’s busy doorway in 1974. And I love it still. They always have my style, my size, my color. The whole store is just a perfect fit for the neighborhood.
All true. If you know some places that need to be painted, let me know.
Zabara for sure. Either the busy appetizing counters on the ground floor, the coffee section where there is always activity going on. Or upstairs where they have all the really great kitchen gadgets anyone could ever use.
But more than anything – the fish counter where they slice the lox so beautifully and perfectly that it’s more of an art than a service.
Sure, Zabar’s is a natural. I’d love to paint there . I suspect that would be a hard sell. I’m not sure there is a place for me to set up and work for three hours. It can be tough in there just shopping. Know anybody I can talk to?