On February 26th, 1882, Luigi Russo was born into a family of six and supported by his father, a cobbler. Growing up in Naples, Italy with only a 4th grade education, Luigi followed in his father’s footsteps in creating shoes for the common people. In the evenings Luigi found himself lingering in the kitchen where his mother was always preparing the family meal. By 1925, Luigi managed to pass thru Ellis Island and found some distant relatives to live with in lower Manhattan. Having arrived with his talent of shoe making and love for his mother’s recipes, Luigi immediately began work as a local cobbler, specializing in shoes and stilts for the circus.
While falling into this niche, Luigi was introduced to an eccentric Chinese fellow by the name of Tu Sing Chan. Tu Sing had been born in China just before the turn of the century, migrated to America in the teens and found work as a “tall man” in the circus by way of stilts. He had heard of Luigi and his talents for crafting fine shoes and stilts for the stage. As fate would have it, their meeting led to far more than a simple order of footwear and props. A friendship developed, and a dream of something that could only happen in America came to be. Each had trouble pronouncing the other’s name so Luigi began to call Tu Sing by his last name, Chan, and Chan began to call Luigi by the name Louie.
By 1924 the two men were frustrated with the times and quite weary of their individual pursuits. Louie had a dream of bringing some of his family recipes to the new world. Chan, no stranger to the long nights of the circus, wanted to escape prohibition with a speakeasy for his friends.
On a fall afternoon in 1925 the two men stumbled down Broome Street for a walk and chat after leaving a Ludlow speakeasy. Upon crossing over Eldridge Street they noticed an empty storefront with basement. The two men took a breath and then decided to look inside. The idea was hatched… Louie & Chan was born!