Angelus Shoe Polish was not even a dream when the young Greek immigrant, Paul T. Angelos, arrived at Ellis Island. Making his way to Chicago, Paul shined shoes and saved enough money to go to Los Angeles. After arriving in Los Angeles penniless, he secured a job at a large shine stand. Paul saved enough money to open his own shine stand. Through hard work and long hours, he was able to send money for his brothers, George and Louie, to join him. Soon there were 14 employees and three shine stands; Sixth Street – opposite the Hayward Grill, Fifth Street – opposite the Alexandria Hotel, and one next door to The Pantages Theater. After being crowned, “King of the Bootblacks”, Paul was able to make the return trip to Greece to marry his sweetheart. Many years later, Paul would tell his grandchildren what an experience it was to return to Greece on the Ocean Liner, Mauritania First Class, which was the same ship that brought him Steerage to American years before. How fortunate his family was to be able to come to this country where freedom, success, and happiness were possible through honesty and hard work.
Arriving back in Los Angeles with his bride, the decision was made to start making a few items to use on their shine stands. Soon, other bootblacks started wondering what the Angelos boys were using on their shine stands and started asking where they could buy some. The demand for Angelus products started to grow until the poor kitchen stove could not keep up with demand. A small shop was then opened on Winston Street. The brothers, cousins, and brother-in-laws, all split time between their shine stands and their new manufacturing plant. It was not long before the plant demanded full time attention. The decision was made to sell the shine stands and devote all their energies into making shoe polish. Some of the family worked in the plant while others took to the road where they covered the country with their sample cases. When necessary, they rolled up their shirt sleeves and worked in the repair shops or shined shoes to demonstrate the quality of the Angelus products. In 1917, the Angelus trademark was registered. In 1924, a new five-story plant was built on Maple Avenue in Los Angeles. In the early 1930’s, Paul’s son George joined the family business on a full time basis. Demand continued to grown for the Angelus products throughout the 1930’s and 1940’s.
At the end of World War II in 1947, with most of the principles of the business reaching well into retirement age, a decision was made to sell the business. The Angelos “boys” retained the building so the new owner of Angelus, moved to the former Santa Cola bottling plant in Culver City California. Many changes were made to Angelus, sadly none for the good. The new owners felt that more money should be made and why use the expensive ingredients in the shoe polish. As a result, a good business with a reputation for unmatched quality and service was brought down to almost nothing.
In 1953, Paul and his son George bought back Angelus Shoe Polish. They went to what they knew best – honesty, quality, and hard work. Any merchandise that was defective was taken back and refunds or new product delivered. Sid Solomon, their salesman would question Paul, “You cannot take back this much merchandise, especially products that you did not even make!” Paul’s reply, “It has our name on it and we will make it good. It matters little who actually made it!” As a young boy, my first job at Angelus was working beside my father and grandfather washing out hundreds of thousands of bottles of returned merchandise. We were the only plant employees. Finally after mastering the art of bottle scrubbing, I graduated to packing and mixing. The only equipment we had in those days was the cooling tunnel for paste polish, one old noisy cream mixer, a few tanks, and wooden paddles for mixing. Filling the product was done with a hose and funnel. Capping was done by blistered hands. Slowly but surely the demand for Angelus grew again. Soon additional machines were bought and employees hired. Angelus remained in Culver City for 59+ years before moving to a larger facility in Santa Fe Springs, California.
Today, as the last original shareholder of Angelus Shoe Polish, I am as proud of our product and reputation as my grandfather was the first time he touched his fingers to a can of polish, shined a pair of shoes, and was flipped a dime for a job well done. It is my promise to all my family that have been involved at Angelus Since 1907, that we will not compromise the basic principles on which our company was founded: Honesty, Hard Work, Quality Products, and Great Service.
PAUL G. ANGELOS, PRESIDENT