They’re bringing their talents from Miami back to Akron.
Jaron Kanfer and Frankie Walker, childhood friends of LeBron James and co-founders of the designer clothing brand and sneaker retailer UNKNWN alongside the NBA superstar, are opening up the doors to a new store in downtown Akron.
The founding trio grew up playing basketball together in Akron long before they launched the Miami-based retailer in 2011. It only made sense, they said, to bring the brand back to their hometown.
“I think the store here was a no-brainer for us. It was a vision Jaron and I had for a while,” Walker said. “Akron was more than deserving to have a retail experience you find in bigger cities.”
The new store at 199 S. Main St. will open to the public Saturday. In addition to its typical retail offerings, it will sell exclusive shoes for “sneakerheads” and collectors, including a global launch of the Nike LeBron 2 Retro “Maccabi” and a re-release of the Nike LeBron 19 “The Chosen One,” of which there will be only 500 pairs.
Nike will also be onsite Saturday to offer a free clothing customization booth with purchase.
On Sunday, Kanfer and Walker will host an open-to-the-public family and friends softball game featuring food trucks outside Summit Lake Community Center, a space they helped refurbish earlier this year.
The founders don’t want their influence to stop with just their store. They want a real stake in the community.
Philanthropy is a core tenet for the brand. In March, the group partnered with Nike to spruce up classrooms at the Summit Lake Community Center, donating new sports equipment, toiletries, coats and more for kids and other low-income residents in the area.
“We want to elevate local talent, local brands, local businesses and give back to everyone who helped us to get where we are,” Walker said.
Each quarter, the business plans to offer free rack space to a small local business to sit alongside global brands like Nike. It will also use its platform to promote its employees, many of whom are local creatives in art, music and fashion spaces.
In addition, they plan to partner with high schools and universities in the area to offer internships and work opportunities.
“UNKNWN really started in Akron,” Kanfer said. “It’s a nice next chapter for us to be able to come home, continue to tell our story and really build up the community and hope to energize downtown.
Reporter Abbey Marshall is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Learn more at reportforamerica.org. Contact her at at [email protected]