In the two years that Jason Markk has been running his eponymous Los Angeles drop-off shoe care service, he has seen a shift in the brand that sneakerheads are rushing to keep like-new-clean the most.
“By far Yeezys — a lot of 350s and 750s,” Markk shared with Footwear News on Saturday at LACMA’s For the Love of Shoes event in Los Angeles. “It used to be that the most popular drop-off was the Air Jordan 11 Concords. We still get a lot of Air Jordans.”
Markk and his crew provided complimentary shoe cleaning for guests of the museum’s new exhibit “Reigning Men: Fashion in Menswear,” featuring 300 years of men’s style and including shoes by Jeremy Scott for Adidas, Rick Owens and Vivienne Westwood.
For nearly a decade, Markk has been the go-to guy for shoe cleaning services and products. In January, his brand will celebrate its 10th anniversary. Last month, his flagship store in downtown Los Angeles marked its second year.
Markk will launch a pop-up inside Footaction’s new Union Square location in New York City from June 25-30.
“They’ve give us this huge space — about 1,000-square feet — and they’ve given it to us to offer drop-off cleaning service for New Yorkers,” he explained.
Previously, Markk had a pop-up in London, but for his first venture in the U.S. market outside of Los Angeles, the Big Apple was a natural choice.
“The sneaker following in New York is so huge,” he said. “When you ride the train, everybody is wearing sneakers. It’s not just the teen or the 25-year-old. There are soccer moms and grandmas even wearing New Balance.”
Markk estimates that his L.A. shop has cleaned more than 15,000 sneakers over the last two years — and business is booming.
“It took about two months to start rolling,” he recalled when he first opened doors. “I think people were watching to see if we were legit, but now it has grown into a regular errand for people. We see returning customers weekly.”
Markk compares his business — the world’s first of its kind — to a drop-off service that is “like dry cleaning, but for sneakers.”
“We’re looking to add more services but staying careful to stay in our lane for cleaning.”
Prices start at $10 for a “Classic Clean,” recommended for leather sneakers “with a few scuffs,” and go up to $65 for the “Purple Label Detail,” he explained.
“I wanted to make sure there’s something for everyone and not just the hardcore sneaker enthusiast,” he said. “We get everything — Nike, Adidas, but also Balenciaga, Saint Laurent and Yeezy Boosts. We get pretty rare stuff.”
Some of the most thorough packages include cleaning of the insole and sockliner, and also deodorizing.
For the most obsessive sneakerheads, it’s the undersole cleaning that they enjoy the most. “A lot of guys really like that for one reason or the other,” he said. “Some don’t want to put them away without being completely clean.”
Still, there are few things that people want cleaned that no longer surprise Markk.
He recalled a request to clean a purse, but nothing has been as stunning as when a customer brought in a pair of Bathing Apes “absolutely covered” in blood.
“We were like, ‘Is this evidence? Should we be touching this?’ But the guy almost blew off his hand on Fourth of July. We slapped on our protective gloves and went in and cleaned up the shoe. It looked amazing.”