Occupy Peoria

The Manias Way
Mayor Jim Ardis - City of Peoria

This month marks a significant milestone in Peoria. It was December 6th, 65 years ago, that a young man from a proud, yet humble family who had immigrated to Peoria from Greece started what would become a Peoria legend. At age 15, he made a commitment to “occupy Peoria” the old-fashioned way—the American way. It was (and still is, in my book) characterized by hard work, long hours, modest compensation and superior personal service. This traditional approach to creating capital was served up with a generous dose of kindness, charity and sincere concern for people and their community.

It will be of no surprise to iBi readers that I’m talking about George Manias, who has been “occupying” downtown Peoria since 1946. His business, of course, is shining shoes and cleaning hats, and over the years, his name and reputation became synonymous with Peoria.

He started with a one-seat shoeshine stand in a small barber shop next to the old Rialto Theater on Jefferson Street. George charged a whopping 25 cents per shine in those early days. After moving to three other locations over the years, he settled in the South Side Bank building at the corner of Main and Adams 20 years ago. The record shows he didn’t protest, carry signs or insult authority. He achieved success and occupied Peoria by saving and investing 25 cents at a time.

George has provided his unique, “hands-on” business to the great and famous, as well as to regular folks like most of us. Who else in Peoria can say that they personally “touched” the lives of presidents, vice presidents, congressmen, senators, cabinet secretaries and the CEOs of the world’s largest earthmoving machinery company? But even more impressive is that George has day in and day out, rain or shine, good economic times and bad, opened his shop to thousands of working men—and women—who wanted that special look on their shoes as they went about their business.

It is truly remarkable that in his 65 years of industrious enterprise, George has shined close to one million pairs of shoes. He has been a continuous, dependable occupant of downtown Peoria. Until seven years ago, he was open on Saturdays from 7am until 7pm—or longer! Those who want to see grass-roots capitalism at work need look no further than George Manias. 

George is one of three children of the late Emanuel and Katina Manias. His sister, Angela, and brother, Emanuel, have also contributed to Peoria’s economic, cultural and social fabric in their own rights.

Angela has operated Angela’s Candy Shop in the Twin Towers Mall for almost 30 years. She mirrors George’s personal traits of compassion and generosity. Her economic contribution to Peoria’s downtown is impressive as she dispenses candy, nuts and popcorn five, six or seven days a week when hungry fans or guests are at Civic Center events.

There is another dimension to Angela that is even more memorable. She is a friend to so many folks who work downtown. You can always open your heart and feelings to her and receive understanding and wisdom. Her personality and genuine concern for people were developed when she and George at the most tender ages of three and four, respectively, cared for their aging grandparents—also named George and Angela Manias—back in Greece. 

Upon returning to Peoria in 1946, Angela went to work at the upscale Manias Manor Hotel at the top of Knoxville hill at Pennsylvania Street. Following 12 years there, she was subsequently employed by the Hotel Père Marquette for four years. Like George, she has occupied Peoria her entire adult life.

Emanuel Manias is the third sibling and a stalwart occupier of downtown as well. Building on his notable career as a lieutenant in the Peoria County Sheriff’s Department for 31 years, Emanuel began his own private detective agency 15 years ago. Headquartered in the Twin Towers, he is able to keep track of his older brother and sister while running his own enterprise.

When you combine George’s, Angela’s and Emanuel’s years of service, it easily exceeds 140 years! They represent the very best of small, private enterprise. But more importantly, in my book, they are perfect examples of what built our great country and city. And they will keep operating their special services and contributing to Peoria’s economic base and civility for years to come.

George has been locally and nationally recognized for many years, having been featured in USA Today and on NBC’s Today Show. Perhaps if the national media would focus a bit more on industrious, hard-working people like George, Angela and Emanuel, the Wall Street and kindred occupiers might learn a thing or two about the creation and distribution of wealth through decades of hard work—provided within a value system of honesty, trust, respect, faith, decency and community commitment. iBi

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So, what you're saying Mr. Ardis, is that those of us who choose to speak out against the corporate takeover of just about all of our interests need to work harder?....What about the men and women who worked their entire lives for the manufacturing base just to watch their promised pensions, livelihoods and health benefits be revoked....While the CEO's and top brass of the companies they worked for all those years--and in many cases,the same ones who promised them those things--earn a killing and pay themselves big fat bonuses while they take vacations and own multiple homes....there are millions of stories like that, Mr. Ardis....the fleecing of hard working americans that did exactly what you suggested....put faith into a system run by crooks and liars and politicians like you who condone their behavior in the name of community progress through your actions and words...No, Mr. Ardis....you are mistaken....it is time for the ones who have been taken advantage of by people like you and the ones you support to stand up, speak out, PROTEST, and demand better....God knows you people won't do what's right of your own accord....you've already proven that....It has to stop somewhere....and saying that we need to work harder is like a sultan telling a starving person that they just need to get used to eating less or do whatever it takes to find more food....Get real, Mayor....Maybe your position affords you the right to not have to worry about the basics....but there are MANY of your constituents who don't have that luxury....and it's NOT because we have refused to work hard, have faith, or contribute to the economic failure you all call "Captialism".

Mr. Mayor,

You obviously admire the hard work of your fellow citizens. They worked hard and were industrious and have succeeded because of this. If someone were to defraud the people you spoke of and steal the fruits of their labor how would you feel? Would you want the thief brought to justice? Or would you tell Mr. Manius that he would simply have to “work harder” to recoup his losses. Do not be mistaken, the people of the occupy movement work extremely hard. Many have more than one job and yet they are also working on something even more important than accumulating money, they are working for justice. Not just for themselves but for every one of their fellow citizens, yourself included. You may not have realized or you simply don’t want to think about the billions of dollars that the American people have been defrauded of. Banks and corporations sold fraudulent products that they KNEW to be faulty and subsequently destroyed the national economy for an entire generation. Not one person has been brought to justice for criminal fraud, a felony. Next time you turn your thoughts to the brave, hardworking people of the occupy movement you might want to thank them for their hard work standing up for you when no one else has. I know there are occupiers in Peoria, you should be down there thanking each one personally and asking what you can do to support them while they fight for your rights.

Ah yes, the old "get a job, you hippies" routine.  That's precisely the problem, chief.  There are no jobs.  We did things the right way and got college degrees like we were told, but where are the jobs we were promised?  Some of us started our own businesses, only to be crowded out by essentially unregulated corporate giants.  When we tried to fill a niche that your big-box buddies did not, we were choked by high rental fees, pointless ordinances, and endless, incompetent bureaucracies.  Now you're telling us that despite our massive student loans and dwindling prospects, despite the needs of our families, we're supposed to be able to pull ourselves out of the mess that your generation created at minimum wage.  

I see what you did there.  You've shifted the blame to those of us who are suffering, telling us that it's our fault if we don't pull ourselves up by the bootstraps.  Well guess what, Mayor, we can't even afford the boots, yet you have the nerve to ask us to shine yours.  Shame on you.


I can't begin to tell you how much stuff like this infuriates me.  Mr. Mayor, can't you tell us a nice narrative about George and his shoe shine business without taking the opportunity to run down a group of citizens who peaceably protest for a redress of grievances?  

My Wife and I have been active in occupy Peoria since the beginings and guess what?  We both have jobs.  Full time jobs at that.  I work 50 hours a week.  We pay our taxes.  I have no problem working for everything I've got and I'm certainly not asking for a handout.  I'm asking for fair play. I'm out there because I don't want to live in a country that gives welfare to corporations that don't need it, provides a revolving door between regulators and the regulated, and recognizes a corporation as a person in the eyes of the law.  Most of the people I talk to, many of them conservatives, tend to agree with me on those points.  

I have appreciated the hands-off approach that the city has taken with occupy Peoria.  I thought maybe things could be different here than in other cities.  Or maybe you figured we would just go away.  Well, we may not occupy Fulton plaza all winter long, but we are far from dead.  In fact, your words might just be a good shot in the arm for our movement.  Thanks. 


The problem, sir, is that in this day and age, hard work and industriousness are, while necessary, are also insufficient.

If more people would study the economic paramaters of the time that you'd mention, you'd notice that there were higher marginal tax rates on the wealthy and more regulation of the economic industry.

Those of us who support the "occupy" movement want a return to the time when hard work was far more likely to pay off.

Throughing out cliches is easy to do and it might be popular with a certain subset of the population.  But it solves nothing.










Amen to that Michele.  It's a shame that there's never an explanation to why there's been no justice served, but only justifications to one's personal monetary state.  A person's good fortune can just as easily be lost...just because you shined the right shoes, doesn't make you invulnerable to what we're going through. It just makes you think you are.

is peoria magazine owned by The Onion?

Hey Mayor, why don't you just drive by Adams Street and yell "Get a Job!"  Because if you did, you'd learn that the majority of the people at Occupy Peoria have one or two jobs and/or go to school or are retired.

While we work our jobs we also want to stand up to the authority that keeps us down.  The corrupt system that make it impossible for a hard working person to get ahead.  Most of these individuals have families.  It's really distressing that there are people who have to work endless hours to support their families and not get to spend time with them.

Mayor Ardis, you need to get a real job and live in the real world and see what it's like! 

While I would imagine Mr Manias and his family are hard working people, I am certain that at least some of them have problems with the government of our country. That is what the core of this movement is about. This government is no longer representative of the people. It's obvious to many. I believed it was obvious to you as well, Mayor Ardis. A few weeks back I recall seeing you in a video segment declaring the pitfalls of our state governments budgeting. It seemed to me we were in quite a bit of agreement about the changes in responsibility and accountability in government of all levels. This article just confuses.

I believe you speak of the American Dream in this article, which some say is non existent today. I disagree. I find it everyday in the people that make this society run. Everyone who wakes up and puts in another day of effort. I once cleaned the building that Mr Manias shines shoes in. I feel I am living the American Dream every day. I support this movement because I want more people to experience this. I want everyone to continue to believe that they have the ability to make a difference in our society.

Please don't put us down. Come and share your input. We welcome all ideas. Just be prepared for open and honest discussion. All sincere input is welcome.

I supported Mayor Ardis in his previous campaign. I'm a hard-working Peorian, a full-time student and full-time healthcare worker. I've lived here nearly my entire life and plan on returning after earning my doctorate to continue serving my community. I don't have time in my insanely busy week to do things like protest, but I've talked to the Occupy people and understand their cause. 

Ardis has shown through his shockingly condescending editorial that he hasn't taken the time to do the same. His subtle, cowardly jabs and innuendo suggest that the Occupy protesters lack values and aren't willing to work as hard as the Manias family. I can't express how wrong that suggestion is, just as I can not support a politician so disgustingly out of touch with those he represents in our local government.

Mayor Ardis should take a lesson in humility and civility from George Manias and meet with the Occupy protesters. I don't expect him to agree with their cause, but to at least recognize their contributions to our city and disagree with their politics civilly in a public retration of this editorial. If not, he risks discovering that those protesters have many supporters that are too busy to protest, but not too busy to vote for his replacement. (It's not too late to make things right, Mr. Ardis.)

whilst i dont agree with the methods of the occupy movement, and i do agree that hard work is noble and should be rewarded... this article is a smug smack in the face. the people, are what make this country and this city, we build the tractors, we build the roads, we teach the children. you are so out of touch. the ceos and political lifers who line thier pockets with our hard work and by cheating us out of our fair share had better take pause, because a day of reckoning is on its way. we can only be cheated for so long. bankers stealing our money through nationlized gambling, then telling us we should eat thier genetically modified poison food and like it. jim ardis, you are an idiot. take a walk down on the south side and see the misery. look into the eyes of the people in the unemployment line. hell look into the eyes of the factory worker whose back youve made your living off of, and enjoy your little mansion on the hill while it lasts. 

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