Shine On

Tommy Maynard played with some of the biggest names in music history. Now the 90-year-old shines shoes on the Strip.

Tommy Maynard (Photo by Zoneil Maharaj)

Photo by Zoneil Maharaj

Tommy Maynard has lived the life of a dozen men.

When he was 15, the Wichita, Kansas native—who turns 90 on March 13—toured the still-segregated country as a trumpet and trombone player on the black-only Chitlin’ Circuit. That was before backing music legends Ray Charles, Miles Davis, Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye at shows, jamming with jazz greats Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie and running wild at Las Vegas’ fabled Moulin Rouge with friend Sammy Davis, Jr.; before fighting in World War II, traveling the globe with the United States Navy Band, running a record shop in southern California for 30 years, and raising 10 children.

He should have written some of that down.

“I worked with so damn many people, I been to so damn many places I can’t remember,” says Maynard from his current post inside Stitched, a classic European-style men’s boutique inside the Cosmopolitan. Maynard chooses to spend five days a week practicing what he sees as his art at the haberdashery, saying it keeps him alive and connected to the world.

“I didn’t want to sit on my ass and die like old men do,” he says.

Sporting a cabbie hat and black-framed glasses, Maynard presides meticulously over a stand at the shop’s rear stocked with an array of brushes and cloths, next to floor-to-ceiling glass overlooking the Strip. The perfectionist takes as much pride in shining shoes as he did in blowing his horn. “Anything you do, you do it right or don’t do it at all,” he says.

Maynard learned how to shine shoes in the ‘40s because he had to look sharp in the Navy, but didn’t take it up professionally until 1997. He wasn’t, and still isn’t, ready for retirement. “I like people. Doing this, I get to meet people from every walk of life,” he says.

Maynard ran a shoe shine stand at Mandalay Bay until 2010 when Stitched founder Eamon Springall, a regular client, recruited him. “He liked the way I took care of business,” Maynard says proudly. “You ever see a good mechanic? He can listen to the car and know what’s wrong with it. I’m the same way with shoe shining.”

He was so good that the Cosmopolitan ended their contract with another shoe shine company, according to Springall, sending all their guests—and top hotel executives—to Maynard.

“Tommy has been the soul of our gentlemen’s haberdashery and a grandfather figure to all of us,” Springall says. “He keeps a healthy balance of sanity around our otherwise irreverent and sometimes out of control working environment.”

Though the most a shoe shine will run you is $12 for exotics such as alligator skins, it’s Maynard’s craftsmanship and charm that earn him the occasional $100 tip from clients, both men and women.

“I respect the ladies. I don’t try to look under their dresses. I got 10 kids, I know what’s under there,” Maynard says, adding that he always places a blanket over his female clients’ laps. The men appreciate his attention to detail, too. “Shoe shining, it’s part of the psychology of society,” he says. “A man can’t have a brand new suit and bad shoes.”

The day before Maynard’s 90th, Springall gives him a tailored Stitched ensemble and hosts an in-store celebration with a performance by Vegas jazz musician Ghalib Ghallab, followed by dinner at STK. But Maynard doesn’t care to get too flashy. On his actual birthday, he’ll have a low-key dinner at the home of one of his sons, with  grandchildren and great-grandchildren by his side.

“I know I won’t live another 90, but I’ve had a great life,” he says, smiling.

Find Tommy Maynard at Stitched inside The Cosmopolitan, 3708 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Tuesday through Sunday, noon to 8 p.m.