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Athlete's Foot to Open on Monday


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A RACE TO THE FINISH LINE: Store plans afoot in Detroit

Entrepreneur to open Woodward Avenue location on Monday

December 18, 2004



As promised, John Park will open his Athlete's Foot store on Woodward Avenue in Detroit before Christmas, but just barely.

Park plans to open the 9,000-square-foot store that includes a Nike concept store along with J-Bee's clothing on Monday. The grand opening party runs from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. and includes a fashion show and performance by Obie Trice.

Park, who signed a 5-year lease on the space at 1448 Woodward Ave. with the Farbman Group, began construction in September. The $1.5-million project includes marble flooring, large photo murals of downtown skyscrapers straddling the Detroit River, and upscale merchandise such as $3,000 leather coats and $7,000 designer mink coats.

But Friday, paint was still being sprayed in the main Athlete's Foot space, and fixtures were being attached on the Nike store side. Park said he'd be ready for Monday's party.

"This will be the flagship store for Detroit," he said. "We have seven stores that do very well in an urban setting."

He operates seven Athlete's Foot stores in metro Detroit and 30 others in Chicago. The 33-year-old entrepreneur from suburban Chicago 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.

Park said the store will employ up to 20 workers and nine of them were hired from the city. He is a master franchisee for Athlete's Foot LLC of Kennesaw, Ga. He opened his first Detroit store in 1999 and is not affected by the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing by Athlete's Foot last week. Chapter 11 typically allows companies to continue operating while reorganizing their finances.

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

"It took us two years to come here. We want to be the first to put our foundation in," Park said about taking a chance on downtown Detroit. Athlete's Foot and Nike will join other big-name retail operations that have opened in the past year near Campus Martius including Kinko's, Borders and Hard Rock Caf

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