Funeral arrangements for James W. Cole, the owner of Austin’s iconic Shine King shoe repair shop, 338 N. Central Ave., have been announced. Cole died July 11 at West Suburban Hospital. He was 78.  

According to the statement released by the family spokesperson, the visitation will take place on Friday, July 22, at 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., at Austin’s Smith and Thomas Funeral Home, 5708 W. Madison St.  

The funeral will take place on Saturday, July 23, at the JLM Abundant Life Community Center 2622 W. Jackson Blvd. The wake will be held at 9:30 a.m., and the funeral itself will take place at 10:30 a.m.

A balloon release ceremony was held July 19 in front of his business.

Cole arrived in Chicago as a high school student, attending John Marshall High School, 3250 W Adams St. Upon graduating, he did many odd jobs, eventually starting a successful shoe shine business. He opened the first Shine King in Dec. 21, 1964, at 3205 W. Madison St. The shop at 338 N. Central Ave. has been open since 1968.

Cole gave a chance to on area school children and residents returning from prison – many of whom, he previously told Austin Weekly News, became reliable employees. In 2018, he estimated that he trained around 60% of all of the city shoe shiners. Cole was one of the co-founders of the Austin Chamber of Commerce.

Some of his famous customers include comedian Mike Epps, musicians Little Milton and Johnnie Taylor, Mayors Harold Washington and Lori Lightfoot, Louis Farrakhan and a young Barack Obama.  

The repair shop is located in Ald. Chris Taliaferro’s 29th Ward. During his July 20 community meeting, the alderman recalled that, when he was a young Marine who just recently arrived in Chicago, his friends recommended Shine King. He said he would travel from the Albany Park neighborhood to to the West Side, because the service was just that good.

Since then, Taliaferro said, he learned to count on Cole’s support and advice.

“He spent a lot of time not just building the legacy for himself, but he’s been indispensable in being supporter and sponsor of countless, countless events and organizations on the West Side,” he said. “He was very supportive of me as well. But one thing you can count on with Mr. Cole – he’ll give you his mind, and he’ll give you his truth, and I certainly appreciate every ounce of his being he gave to the West Side.”

In lieu of flowers, the Cole family is asking that donations be directed to the John Marshall High School Alumni Association, 3250 W. Adams St., One Lord-One Faith M.B Church, 312 N. Lavergne Ave. and Greater St. John Bible Church, 1256 N. Waller Ave.

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...