Greenville is the kind of place where people have stories—because, no doubt, they themselves are interesting people. And the encounters are rich, varied, and unpredictable.
I made a mistake. That’s the way I got to meet Talmadge “Buddy” Holmes. Let’s just say, he got “someone” out of a heap of hot water by repairing Italian leather loafers. Thank you, Buddy.
There is much to say about Holmes: the leather engineer, the collector, the survivor, the devoted husband and father, and a whole lot of other things he is and represents.
The Barber Centre on Congaree holds “Buddy’s Shine Services,” his business name, but you get way more than a shoe shine if luck or a shoe disaster brings you through his doors and into his chair.
“Did I ever tell you that President Johnson was a customer? And his top advisor?” This is not just idle chit-chat between a shoe-shiner and client. This is a nugget in a treasure chest of stories of famous clients and special patrons Buddy can call his own. When Buddy tells his stories, he is modest and matter-of-fact, as if every day you meet the likes of Johnny Carson, Dean Martin, and David Rockefeller. To Buddy, they were gentlemen who wanted to look their best, who happened to have done a few important things. Yes, a few.
“There’s a lotta guys (and ladies) with a lotta shoes in this town!” He turned 70 this past March. You can tell he’s happy to be alive. He’s survived six by-pass surgeries, goes to the gym every day at 5 a.m., and lives a good life with his wife of 39 years, Rochelle. Getting married to her was literally the last thing he did before leaving New York City and heading home for Greenville in 1972.
When his mother nicknamed him “Buddy,” she must have known he would be a friend to many. One friend in particular was not only a friend, but an “Angel.” Buddy calls Brackey Cole that, because Cole raised money for Buddy when Buddy was out of work for 10 weeks recovering from his heart surgery 11 years ago. Cole and others chipped in, so that Buddy wouldn’t have to worry. “That’s what friends do,” Buddy says.
The first thing Talmadge Holmes, his given name, asks me is “Where do Greenville’s best-dressed go (for a shoe-shine), the ones who dress from head to toe—not the ones who stop at their socks?”
It’s not a trick question, and I am glad to know the answer.