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Fairytale of New York

It was July 4th eve, babe, 1994. I wasn’t in the drunk tank. Nor were the boys of the NYPD choir singing Galway Bay. But that’s the day I signed a lease on an Upper West Side apartment, marking the beginning of my own Fairytale of New York. It’s not nearly as gritty as Shane MacGowan’s Christmas classic, but it’s a tumultuous tale filled with awe, humor, humidity, frustration, wind that goes right through you, ups, downs, Hudson River sunsets, leaks, parks, odors (mostly bad), traffic, bike rides, pigeons, parenting, subways, bats, plays, so many garages, and a whole lot of takeout.

Life in the Big Apple, as the Pogues’ song says, is “no place for the old,” and it’s definitely not for the meek. You must bob, weave, pounce, and roll with the punches. You take your lumps along the way. You scratch and claw as you jockey for position among the masses of dreamers and schemers. Gotham is, as Springsteen wrote in New York City Serenade, a “mad dog’s promenade/so walk tall or, baby, don’t walk at all.”

And here I am 30 years later, still here despite having had zero intention of residing in this city for a day. Life has plot twists. A big one for me came on Jan. 28, 1990. I was at a party at a friend’s house in suburban New Jersey, and thanks to a Super Bowl XXIV 49ers blowout, I wandered over to the food spread, where I overheard his sister encourage a guest to send her his resumé. I gathered she worked in HR for a publishing company. A starving reporter, I asked if I could send one as well. Six months later, I found myself working in Manhattan at Gralla Publications, a group of trade magazines. About a month into my new gig, I met my future apartment mate and wife—a gal from Kalamazoo (literally). A year later, I landed at Sporting Goods Business, where I was assigned to the footwear beat. I, to paraphrase legendary New York reporter Jimmy Breslin, have become one of the eight million stories in the naked city.

That’s one of the things I love most about New York—people from all over the world come here to pursue their dreams. It’s where you can “make a brand new start of it,” and if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere, as Mr. Sinatra belts in New York, New York. The recent FFANY/FSNYE show was no exception. Within the bustling showrooms and hotels of Midtown, attendees came from near and far to pursue their footwear dreams. Three of them are featured in this issue. That’s New York, a simmering melting pot of dreamers with stories worth telling.

First up is David Ben Zikry, CEO of Spring Footwear and the subject of our Q&A (p. 12). Zikry, along with his twin brother, Avi, began pursuing their dream of building a shoe empire in 1984 when they emigrated from Israel to a rented house in Queens, NY. There, they started manufacturing shoes (sandals, primarily), selling first to area flea markets and soon after to local retailers. Fast forward 40 years and the brothers are at the helm of a comfort conglomerate (Spring Step, L’Artise, Patrizia, Azura, and Flexus) that makes millions of pairs annually in factories around the world. It’s a classic American dream-come-true story, except that, of late, the brothers are living a nightmare caused by the Hamas war. Two sons and two sons-in-law are on the front lines. A cousin was murdered. Somehow, the Zikrys continue to manage their company. They refuse to let their dream die. It’s a sobering yet inspiring story.

Next up is Jeremy Bank, founder of YY Nation and subject of our Brand Focus (p. 32). The New Zealand–based company is committed to changing the way casual athletic footwear is manufactured—for the good of the planet. There are plenty of sustainable startups giving it a go, but the vast majority lack Bank’s industry knowhow, the cornerstone you need to build a meaningful business for the long haul. An industry veteran of 25-plus years in both wholesale and retail, Bank knows what retailers need. It goes far beyond great-looking product, which YY Nation has. Above all, his vision of eliminating harmful plastics industry-wide with renewable and biodegradable materials is dreaming really big. It’s another inspiring story.

Last but not least is Jori Miller Sherer, president of Minnetonka and the latest participant in our “A Note to My Younger Self” series (p. 31). Miller Sherer traveled a relatively short distance from Minnesota to attend the New York show, but she has come a long way since her early twenties. Back then, she lived in L.A. and worked in the film industry. Doubts crept in, though, and she returned home to work in her family’s now 77-year-old business. This is no nepo story, though: Miller Sherer started at the bottom and, along the way, learned some invaluable lessons, which she shares with all of us.

Enjoy the issue, and happy New Year! I hope we all “See a better time/When all our dreams come true.”

The February 2024 Issue

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