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Construction on Athlete's Foot to begin today

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Construction on downtown Athlete's Foot to begin today

Woodward retailer to include Nike store

September 27, 2004

BY GRETA GUEST

FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER

John Park is to begin construction today on an Athlete's Foot on Woodward Avenue in Detroit that includes a Nike concept store along with his own J-Bee's clothing store.

Park, who signed a 5-year lease with the Farbman Group and received building permits from the city last week, hopes to start hiring in November and be open for the holidays.

He operates six Athlete's Foot stores in metro Detroit and 30 others in Chicago. The 33-year-old entrepreneur from suburban Chicago said he hopes to keep a low profile in Detroit. "People find us," he said.

Park gained national attention in February 1999 when the Wall Street Journal wrote a story about how he hired employees from the Chicago projects. Many had police records and some were plucked from gangs. One former gang member started as a part-timer and became a regional manager, Park said.

"I like to hire within the local community," he said.

Park is a master franchisee for Athlete's Foot LLC of Kennesaw, Ga. He opened his first Detroit store in 1999.

Park said he believes in second chances for people and, in the case of Detroit's struggling downtown, for America's once-dominant industrial cities.

The store will fill a storefront underneath the Lofts at Woodward Center, a 61-unit apartment building two blocks from Campus Martius and the Compuware headquarters building. It is across Woodward from Merchants Row, a $30-million loft and retail project.

"Detroit has been one of the best, the shining star for us," Park said. "We want to make a big impact and help rejuvenate downtown. We wanted to be in the center of it. Woodward Avenue has been known as a shopping district, so we wanted to be there."

Park said he thought a downtown store would be successful because people from the central city were going to shop at his other stores nearby.

The store will sell name-brand athletic shoes; J-Bee's will sell urban and hip-hop apparel and shoes from names such as Kenneth Cole and Sean John.

"We cater to a special market, the African American. We have special products that no one else carries. We are a fast-forward fashion company. If they want to be in tune with the fashion and the gear, they would have to visit our stores," Park said. "Detroit has a dense population and it is one of the top 10 cities in the country. Their fashion and music is very fast, almost comparable to New York."

Park said workers are to begin gutting the store space today. Over the next two months, it will be filled with luxury touches like black granite floors, brushed silver fixtures, suede seating and innovative lighting.

Nike Inc. spokeswoman Kellie Leonard said the Beaverton, Ore.-based company was happy to be part of the project. Nike will have a concept store of about 3,000 square feet. It will be accessible from the street and will connect inside to the Athlete's Foot.

"We are very excited to be part of that store. We are glad to have the store within a store," Leonard said.

Cindy Ciura, vice president of marketing and retail for the Detroit Economic Growth Corp., said the city is excited that they will open so quickly.

"It will be nice because you will see with Borders and the new store. You are starting to see shopping along Woodward Avenue for the holidays. It is sort of a throwback to how it used to be."

Contact GRETA GUEST at 313-223-4192 or [email protected]

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Sadly, I walked by this storefront two days ago and nothing has changed since September. The media was told that the store would be open in time for Christmas shopping. Not sure what the delay is......

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I beg to differ Brother Ray, I walked by a few days ago and saw several workers installing the electrical, and walls. It's very dark inside, so it's kind of hard to notice though. They are definately working away inside that location though, and it might be possible for them to open by the December.

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I beg to differ Brother Ray, I walked by a few days ago and saw several workers installing the electrical, and walls.  It's very dark inside, so it's kind of hard to notice though.  They are definately working away inside that location though, and it might be possible for them to open by the December.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

That's great news, Mojo. Too bad it has taken this long because the article above, dated Sept 27th said it was starting that day. I walked by the building the same day the story broke (that Nike was coming to Woodward Ave) and I was even interviewed on Fox2 News about it! I had a real close look inside. What I saw two days ago looked almost the same. That's 45 days (aprox) lost for the holiday shopping season. It makes me cringe to think that the city somehow delayed the construction with permit requests/zoning issues/etc.....

Again, I'm happy to hear that there is something happening there. :thumbsup:

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Damn, Sept 27th was the day it was supposed to get started? :o I guess I see your point. The reporters from the Free press are always too optimistic on when things are supposed to start construction. I hoping that they can put the stores together in time for Christmas shopping though (I know I'm being optimistic). Stores don't really take too long to get constructed.

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The reporters from the Free press are always too optimistic on when things are supposed to start construction. 

I wouldn't blame the Freep on this, Fox2 News said the same thing. This is what they were told by the City of Detoit rep who was promoting this new deal (she was being interviewed by Fox 2 when I arrived there).

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