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First-ever Converse store opens on Newbury Street

Posted by Sara Brown  October 15, 2010 06:53 PM

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Sara Brown for The Boston Globe

The first Converse retail store features special Boston gear.

Sneaker connoisseurs and curious shoppers Friday stopped by the grand opening of the new Converse store on Newbury Street, as the company showed off its first retail store complete with special Boston-themed merchandise and a sneaker customization bar.

While the opening was delayed a few hours as the company waited for a permit, by late afternoon the store was buzzing. Shoppers were greeted with a table of merchandise celebrating the city, including high-top sneakers and t-shirts emblazoned with “I (Converse Logo) Boston.”

Converse fans can also show neighborhood loyalty with shoes and shirts celebrating Southie, Allston, “The Bay,” Sowa, and Beacon Hill.

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Sara Brown for The Boston Globe

Have neighborhood pride? The store sells neighborhood shirts and sneakers.

Most of the Boston t-shirts sell for $28, and the shoes for $75.

While the first floor of the shop is devoted to clothing, such as jeans with styles called “Copley” and “Beacon” ($78-$98), the second floor of the store is dedicated to the brand’s famous shoes. Converse aficionados can pick up the classic styles, or opt for a sequined pair ($80) or a tiger-striped style called “Cat in the Hat” ($60).

The store features items shoppers can’t find anywhere else, said Dave Powers, the vice president for global retail at Converse.

Powers said it was natural for the North-Andover based company to pick Newbury Street to open its first retail store. The company was founded in Malden in 1908. (A second store, in Manhattan, is scheduled to open in November.)

“We consider ourselves locals,” he said, citing the brand’s connection with the Boston Celtics. “It’s a great market for us.”

The store also features a “design your own shoe” bar on the second floor, where customers turn shoe-designer by using iPads to design emblems for their new shoes. They can then walk out of the store with their creation.

“You pick your color laces and go,” Powers said. “There’s been a line at that thing all day long.”

Customization costs between $15 and $25 on top of the price of the shoes.

The store currently employs about 15 people, though Powers said they will soon be hiring more employees. “We’re already slammed.”

Yet many shoppers braved the crowd to check out the new space—though one shopper said “there are too many people in there” as she left. Others expressed excitement when they saw that the store was finally open.

Brandon, a Boston University student from Allston, said he liked the underground feel of the shop. He picked up a pair of shoes.

The iPads were a winning touch for him. “The iPads…that’s legit,” he said.

Store employees passed out green stickers declaring “You Never Forget Your First,” and $5 off coupons.

Michael Langan, 26, decided to pop in the new store as he walked by. While he wasn’t interested in the Boston paraphanelia—“I’m not into that,” he said, adding that he’s “not really a Converse fan.”

Nevertheless, he walked away with a pair of gray Converse sneakers. “My first pair,” he said.

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Sara Brown for The Boston Globe

At the sneaker bar, shoppers can use iPads to customize their sneakers.

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