The Success Story of Napoleon’s Shoe Shine and Repair Service

Napoleon’s Shoe Shine and Repair Service
Columbia Center
401 West A Street, Suite 175
San Diego, CA 92101
619 245-9896
Hours:  M – F 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Several weeks ago I attended a party celebrating the birth of a friend’s grandson.  While there, an outgoing, gregarious young man named Napoleon came up to me and introduced himself as the “father of the baby.” As we began talking, I was impressed with his story and thought that other readers might also share the pride this young man has in all he has accomplished.

The following is a narrative written by Napoleon’s mother-in-law, Roseann, edited by me, and approved by Napoleon.

Robert Napoleon Steele III was born in Detroit (pronounced Deeeetroit) Michigan to an African American father and a Caucasian mother.  His early home life was normal, although he experienced some bullying by other kids because of his mixed heritage.

When he was seven his parents divorced and he moved with his mother and sister to Maryland.  By the age of ten, Napoleon was a handful and his mother sent him to live with his father.  His father enrolled Napoleon in various boarding schools and programs for unruly kids until he eventually graduated high school.

Napoleon’s first job was running the concessions at the National Aerospace Museum in Washington DC.  At 19, his life took a downward spiral and he became addicted to drugs and alcohol.  He moved around the country, and ended up in Reno, Nevada, hooked on drugs and homeless.  After years of this lifestyle, Napoleon was tired  – tired of drugs, tired of sleeping in alleys, tired of people looking past him not at him, tired of disappointing his family and himself.

He turned things over to his God; started associating with positive, sober people and attending Alcoholics Anonymous.  As he healed physically, emotionally and spiritually, he looked for a way to rebuild his life.    By working with others and through trial and error, he learned first to shine shoes and then to repair them.   His dream was to be self-supporting and to get married and have a family.  After a few years of being clean and sober he met a woman who believed in him. They fell in love and were married.  They now have three sons.

A friend and craftsman built a shoeshine chair for Napoleon and he started his business at the UTC shopping center in La Jolla.  Although business was okay there, he knew that being downtown was where he would best be able to build his clientele.  Napoleon pitched the value of his business to the Columbia Center building manager and was soon setting up shop there, where he has been for over three years.

When I asked Napoleon the worst thing that he had ever experienced, he said it was losing the trust and respect of his family because of his drug and alcohol addiction.  Living on the streets with no hope is something he never plans to repeat.

On the other hand, the best things that have happened to him are being sober, meeting his beautiful wife,  having three sons, and starting his own business.   When Napoleon isn’t working or spending time with his family, he is a comedian and has done stand-up comedy at local coffee houses. Napoleon is known for his consistently upbeat nature and always having a joke to share.

Napoleon owes his success in business to his God and the support of his family.  His motto is “Quality is Never an Accident.”

Unfortunately in many businesses today, it seems there is a lack of quality and service.  Napoleon believes in providing top notch service and a quality product.  He works on others’ shoes like he would his own.  He doesn’t just polish them, he works to extend the life of the shoes and make them look like new.

He wants people to know that they are always going to receive top quality service from him.  It is very much like his own life: “He works with others to extend their happiness and success and, at the same time, derives great satisfaction in changing their quality of life.”


Judi Curry

High school dropout who decided to show the educational community what learning is all about. If it's the status quo something's wrong with it and I'll scratch the itch!

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  1. avatarSandi says

    Kudos to this young man and to the people who trusted in him during his journey to good health and entrepreneurship. I hope this article results in an increase in business for him.

  2. avatarJim Bliesner says

    Another AA success story. But its Napolean who is doing it. I’ll look for him the next time I’m downtown.

  3. avatarDoug says

    And Napoleon keeps pushing the dream. I met him today at the Columbia Center when he complimented my attire, introduced himself and produced a business card. I’ve always been one to polish my own shoes, but Napoleon just won my business.

  4. avatar says

    I found Napoleon on Yelp, when I needed help for an event outside L.A.
    He agreed to give me a hand, and I’m glad he did.

    His shine is impressive and customer service is top notch indeed.
    I continue to reach out to this dedicated individual, when I can.

    If you are in the downtown San Diego area, I urge you to take your shoes, boots, purses, heels, right to him. Tell him Mr. Green sent you!