by Rick Winterson


South Boston Online found out about the opening of the Reebok Store – Reebok’s Flagship Retail Facility and its Signature Headquarters Store – at midday on Monday, October 23.  The Store is located at Reebok’s new global headquarters, 25 Drydock Avenue, on the ground floor of the Innovation and Design Building in South Boston.

The opening was a sight to see – awesome crowds beyond count, and music spun by a Kiss 108 FM DJ, who seemed to be having more fun than anyone else.  Refreshments were courtesy of Loco’s on West Broadway.  Sneakers are obviously athletic shoes more than anything else – check their categories like “training”, “running”, and “classic”.  So, the guests of honor were the Patriots’ Brandin Cooks and Olympic gymnast (and team Captain) Rose “Aly” Raisman from Needham.  Reebok President Matt O’Toole and US Retail VP Paul Froio enthusiastically took part in the Store’s opening as well.

One of the most interesting and unique features of the Flagship Reebok Boston Store in South Boston is what’s called the “YourReebok Customization Shop”.  Turn right as you enter the main door on the promenade at 25 Drydock, and look for this workshop.  You’ll have entered the only Reebok store anywhere that offers customized versions of their footwear and apparel, which you can design and specify yourself, and which can often be ready for you in a matter of minutes.

Going into the shop led this writer to an unusual (and heartwarming) story.  I asked one of the craftsmen named Lou, who was working at the fabrication table, if I should call him a “cobbler” in my article.  He replied, “That’s a very good question.”  After thinking for a bit, Lou said, “How about calling us shoemakers?”  I then said, “Let’s make that ‘custom shoemakers’.”  He agreed.

Lou then introduced me to a man named Ardris, who was working at a shoemaker’s last.  It turns out that Ardris is an immigrant, originally from Syria.  He had put six of his family through school, even though he himself never even learned to read.  When the revolution broke out in Syria, Ardris emigrated to Turkey, but that country has become very harsh on immigrants.  Early this year, Ardris was allowed to immigrate here.  Reebok, to their credit. hired him, even though Ardris did not know a word of English.  But he can make shoes.  Ardris is a cheerful, hard-working man, who is grateful to be here.

In the middle of Reebok’s marvelous opening celebration last Monday, I quietly thought to myself, “Only in America.”