Clicks Sneaker Store in Milwaukee to launch community center – Footwear News
Creating change for the better becomes a little easier when you do it with others.
Eight years ago, with no sneaker retail experience, Eric “Shake” James enlisted the help of industry veteran Jazerai Allen-Lord to launch his first Milwaukee-area store, Clicks. However, since then Allen-Lord, founder of creative agency True to Size, has become a central figure in his community efforts, which are primarily focused on his midwestern hometown.
âA lot of times we look at the big target cities, but we don’t think of other places where we can have the most impact for our community,â Allen-Lord told FN. âThat’s why I’m so hard on Shake’s job. What he does, there is a very real change. You could see its impact in Milwaukee in a very short time. With 10% effort, you will see a difference much faster than you would under other circumstances. “
Their collaborative charity journey will continue tomorrow, two months away from the 10th Jam Master Jay Back to School Bash, when James and Allen-Lord host two events focused on family and youth.
First, they’ll deliver pizzas, drinks and 100 backpacks and pairs of shoes – with help from Adidas – to the kids at the LaVarnway Boys & Girls Club, a short drive from Clicks. Later that day, they will donate 100 turkeys to families at St. Augustine’s Preparatory Academy, south of Milwaukee.
Next month, James and Allen-Lord will adopt 150 to 200 families on December 18, getting lists and running errands for the kids.
It is events and initiatives like these that will inform perhaps the biggest project to date: a physical presence for young people in the community, which will be known as JAY Academy.
To this day, JAY Academy – which stands for justice, arts, and youth – has been used as an umbrella term for James’ community initiatives. But his desire to go further was reinforced recently with the announcement of the LaVarnway Boys & Girls Club, the shoe and backpack giveaway site of tomorrow, which will close by the end of the year.
âThis club has been in existence for 64 years. It’s crazy that it’s shutting down, âsaid James. âI was really upset when I found out because I was playing ball at the same club, I learned how to play pool there and how to interact with people. And I see this trend of removing these resources, which is very unfortunate. â
For years, James – who owns and operates the Clicks, Sneex, and Black Market banners – has engaged in a variety of community-driven efforts. In addition to the Jam Master Jay Back to School Bash, which has been going well for the past 10 years, James added a community center called Study Hall to his Black Market store, which opened in March.
Allen-Lord said the years of work would illuminate the vision for a future physical academy.
âI knew Shake’s long-term dream was to have his own version of a boys and girls club so kids could learn and develop skills to adapt to the climate we live in. And he formed all the programs and pillars he wanted, âAllen-Lord told FN. âMyself and Dawn Martin, my experience manager at True to Size, we went to a bat cave for a week last year and set up all the programming and created a pitch deck with any ideas. “
When the academy comes to fruition, James will seek to bring professional development, financial literacy, wellness education and more to the youth of Milwaukee. James said the hope is to give them the tools they need, such as the importance of credit, tutoring, job interview training and more, to build a better future.
At the moment, James is awaiting approval of JAY Academy’s nonprofit status. Once he got it, James said he would then look to acquire a building and target the nearby Memorial Lutheran School. Additionally, James said he would seek financial commitments from brands such as Adidas and Nike to ensure the longevity of the academy.
James said the JAY Academy will open in 2022.
âI want it to be around 64 like the Boys and Girls Club was,â James said.