Alive & Unedited: Damon Ruff of Shine Me Up

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Damon Ruff believes good, shiny shoes make a person feel right. He'll transform yours at Shine Me Up, a new shop on Gay Street that offers shoe shines and repairs, foot massages and numerous convenience items. The young entrepreneur spoke more about keeping people happy on their feet.


I moved to Westerville in fifth grade when my stepdad got a job. Coming from Detroit was a culture shock. We grew up in a really Section-8 lifestyle. I was only eating maybe three times a week. When my mom met my stepfather, things really started to change.

Going into high school, I got used to it. You always have to find yourself and find what you're capable of. I used to go to Detroit every summer, so really I was getting street smarts and suburb smarts at the same time.

My mom was really strict. She didn't let me go out on Friday nights. She didn't let me go out to the movies. She let me go roller-skating because that was her favorite thing to do. In Westerville, we had Roller Chalet back in the day.

People who know me know that I have humor. I was class clown in middle school and high school. I always seemed to be the guy that people came to talk to about stuff.

Shining shoes is a lost art. Working this idea, I wanted to cater something that was classic once before in Columbus. I heard from a couple other guys that in the '70s there used to be 10 shines across the entire Downtown area. I felt like I could bring that classic back.

This shop's all about taking care of what you've got and being proud of it. Shoes, to me, rule the outfit. Anyone walks up to you, especially women, they're looking down.

The secret to a good shine is the amount of polish. With every shoe, you should give at least two coats. Another secret that people don't realize is saddle soap. It brings out the natural moisture of the leather. The trick to the shine is a horsehair brush.

The most shoes I've ever owned is 205 pairs. Right now, I'm sitting on about 56. My favorite dress shoes are Salvatore Ferragamo Mantras. The best damn shoe ever made. For sneakers, it's the Tiger Woods edition of the Nike Blazers with the tiger fur on the side.

Someone I admire is my mom. She's that person who keeps me on my toes. For example, I said, "Mom, I got a shop." She'll say, "OK. What about this? What about that?"

The best advice I've ever received is that success doesn't come to you - you go to it. My stepdad told me that.

I don't go for the spotlight. I'm a silent assassin. I can sit back, chill and keep working on my craft. At this age, I know what went wrong in my life so far, and all the things that had to be fixed I fixed. I feel like I can't be stopped.

Know someone doing cool things in Columbus? E-mail John Ross at