Being a merchant on State Street attracts a special kind of person.
Irv and Bob Goodman opened their jewelry store there, did well, and then gave all of it back to their community. I have been going to the College Barbershop at the campus end of the street since I arrived here to go to school. I keep telling the owner Larry Cobb that I'm going to keep coming back until he gets it right. I never tire of this joke. He never lets me see him roll his eyes.
I love checking in with Sam at Michelangelo's coffee shop and John Hutchinson at Fontana, and about once a year around Dianne's birthday, I go to see Karen at Karen & Co.
And, for about two decades, Dianne and I have been loyal customers of Mary's Tailoring, the small shop at the east corner of State and Dayton. For the last dozen or so of those years, the shop has been owned by Shoko Narita.
She was not the most colorful of State Street characters. Shoko had a quiet reserve about her, but she also had a wry smile and a good sense of humor.
For years. my dog and I had the same morning routine. As I left for the day, he would try to bite me in the back end. You might think I'd be angry about this, but actually it helped prepare me for the kind of day I might have at the office. One time his aim was good and my reactions were slow and he caught the right back pocket on my suit trousers. I brought them to Shoko for repair. I explained what happened. She looked up at me with that same sense of calm. She didn't say a word, but I noticed a faint smile as she looked back down to examine the work she needed to do.
No razzing I got the rest of the week for that story was as effective as that gentle smile.
Shoko Narita passed away at the end of July after living with cancer for three decades. Her beautiful family was at her memorial service, including her daughter Mariko who has taken over the business, as were former employees and customers. Lots of customers, whose lives and clothes she touched.
Some people like the Goodman brothers touch our lives in extraordinary ways. Others, like Shoko, do it with a stitch here and there, a gentle word now and then, and the faintest hint of a smile.