Founder: Suraj Kaufman
Founded in: 2006
Based in: Jersey City, New Jersey
Link to website: https://www.snkrroom.com/
For Suraj Kaufman, opening up a sneaker store in the heart of his hometown has been a dream come true.
“I grew up not being able to afford sneakers,” Kaufman said. “I remember always seeing kids in the projects getting sneakers — that’s how you knew somebody was doing good, if they had a shoe.”
As a kid, Kaufman says coming from humble beginnings helped to cement his character and create an unwavering desire for him to succeed.
Years later, a family tragedy helped pave his path to entrepreneurship.
After losing his mom in 2006, he received a final gift from her: A framed Nike stock that said ‘To Suraj: A piece of Nike you won’t wear out. Love, Mom.’
Her wish turned into his vision: Starting a 300-square foot sneaker store in Jersey City that for 14 years, would act as a one-stop shop for devout shoe collectors.
And so, Sneaker Room was born.
After opening its doors to the New Jersey community in 2006, the store became a staple for the latest styles in streetwear.
But in March 2020, as Kauffman and his team were gearing up to launch their annual “Art Max” event, business came to a halt as his company had to shutter its doors due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m a very optimistic person but this pandemic has thrown me for a loop,” Kauffman said.
Though his business is considered non-essential and isn’t open, Kaufman is still able to run his online shop as a way to keep some revenue coming in.
“We’re offering better discounts than we’ve ever done before,” he said. But, business has slowed significantly. “We’re at maybe single-digit sale percentages compared to what we were doing.”
His biggest question remains: Are people still willing and able to purchase sneakers? And, more than that, do they even want to?
“You have to ask, are people really going to shop from home?” Kauffman said. “Do people still want this?”
Though Kaufman himself admits to being an avid sneaker-collector with more than 1,000 pairs, he understands that people have bigger concerns during these uncharted times.
Still, while things remain uncertain for Kaufman and his company, his heart lies with the New Jersey neighborhood.
“We took our storefront windows and we turned them into a billboard for the community,” he said.
And now, he’s using a philanthropic approach to find new ways to let people know that they aren’t in this pandemic solo.
“It was more important for me to let people know that they aren’t in this alone. Even as a business owner, I’m hurting with you — I feel your pain.”
As a board member for the Jersey City Medical Center foundation, Kauffman has found a way to give back to those on the front lines by donating personal protective equipment, or PPE, to hospital staff.
His team has donated 1,000 N95 masks, 40,000 gloves, and 50 stethoscopes to the Jersey City Medical Center.
Continuing to remain hopeful and optimistic for good times he’s sure will come eventually, Kauffman leaves this message for his Jersey locals interested in showing support.
“The best way to support Sneaker Room is to stay positive. Know that we’re going through this with you and we’re going to get through this together.”