The 60-year-old blacksmith-turned-carriage driver uses the skills he honed years ago to leave his customers with an unforgettable gift: a freshly painted horseshoe.
Michnej has been handing out the symbols of good fortune for 20 years — ever since it was suggested he make better use of the horseshoes he was bringing home from work.
“My wife said, ‘Why don’t you give them to the people?’ ” Michnej said. “I figured if somebody was gonna refuse it, then I was gonna stop giving them, but I haven’t had a single person refuse a horseshoe.”
The shoes wear down after about five months and are typically tossed.
But Michnej, by painting the tarnished pieces of metal gold, has found a way to transform them into prized artifacts.
“For kids, these things are like a treasure,” said Michnej. Born in the Polish shipyard town of Gdansk, Michnej became a blacksmith and specialized in creating horseshoes. After coming to New York in 1981, he got a job at a stable taking care of horses. Within four years, he had purchased a carriage.