MIAMI — Emotions were high on Friday when residents, activists and community leaders gathered for a candlelight prayer vigil organized by the Miami Worker’s Center to mark the demolition of Greene Dreams Shoe Repair, a landmark, black-owned family business that served Liberty City for half a century. But they also demanded justice.
The business with the slogan “We save your soles” also sold black history T-shirts and other merchandise. It was demolished by Miami-Dade County and the city of Miami on Jan. 4 after the city’s Unsafe Structures Board deemed the building a safety hazard.
Owner Tyrone Greene, who began working at the store when he was 10 and eventually inherited the business from his father, accused the county of sending workers to demolish the building at the break of dawn, destroying his family’s lifeline to make room for a transit development, since they could not defeat him in court.
“I’ve never been late on my rent. My lease was good until 2014. The judge sided with me,” Greene said. “This is more than just a shoe shop; this is a ministry, a community icon. They lost in court, so the county had to find a loophole to get us out. But this isn’t over. We won’t stop until we get justice.”
County officials denied using a stealth approach to knock down the shoe shop at 668 N.W. 62nd St.
“For a few years we’ve been communicating and working with Mr. Greene. We offered him relocation benefits to assist with moving expenses to a temporary location and once the transit village was completed, gave him the option to move back at his same rental rate,” said Karla Damian, a county spokeswoman.
“We also offered to pay any difference if his temporary location’s rent was higher than his current rent.” Greene disputed that.
“The county has told so many different stories and lies. They have been totally dishonest,” he said. “They say they tried to work with me but we know for a fact that the county (leaves) a paper trail. You can’t just go on something verbal. If they were really trying to work with me, there’d be a paper trail,” he said.
Damian said the county understands Greene’s frustration, as well as the value of his business, and hopes they can eventually resolve their differences.
“For a while we were telling him that we needed him to move for his safety and the safety of his customers but he chose not to. Unfortunately it had to come to this.
“But we will continue to work with Mr. Greene and hope we can reach an amiable solution in this matter. We would like to help him re-establish his business because we know it is a community staple,” Damian said.
The demolition was the latest major development in a saga that has been unfolding over the last four years.
The county asked Greene to move so the site can be used for a transit village that will include retail stores, a theater, apartments and a bus depot. Greene said no and twice won in the courts. After the city declared the property unsafe, the county disconnected Greene’s utilities. He brought in his own makeshift utilities.
Greene said he has retained attorney Rod Vereen to represent him and they are deciding on a course of action.
“It’s going down now.
They messed with the right one,” Greene said. “They’re going to have to pay for this.”
Greene said he now has to find an alternate way to provide for his wife and six children, five of whom are in college and depended on the business.
“There’s not enough money that you could give me to replace what they’ve done to my children. The Bible says a good man is supposed to leave his children an inheritance. My job as a father is to call them and ask them how they are doing, not the other way around. They’re in school and shouldn’t have to be worried about me,” Greene said.
With the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and President Barack Obama’s Inauguration approaching, this would normally be a peak time for his business, Greene said.
“It’s not going down like this,” he said. “I’m responsible for the dream to stay alive.”
* Picture above is (owner) Tyrone Greene.