KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The owner of a local shop on Troost Avenue simply wants to give youth in the community a chance.
It's all Jerren Thornhill, who owns OnePair, said he wanted growing up.
“Growing up – that’s where it came from, OnePair. I didn’t have too many shoes growing up," Thornhill said. "My friends were my leverage. They gave me shoes to help me feel good, make me feel good when I went to school, and that’s where it came from."
That experience, and the notion that everyone deserves one pair of good shoes, is the basis for his store at 5511 Troost Avenue, which serves as a shoe and clothing store, as well as an education center. And it's designed, created and run by the youth of Kansas City's urban core.
“[It] took me 10 years to learn life, how to turn my hustles into a corporation… It shouldn’t be that way," Thornhill said. "And that’s what kids are looking for now.”
At OnePair, customers can buy, sell, trade, restore or customize.
"Reselling is a $2 billion industry, and my kids know the industry, the shoe culture," Thornhill said.
Not only do Thornhill's roughly nine student employees know they culture – but they also create it.
Thornhill gives some student managers, like Kj Farmer, part ownership in the shop, which in turn helps them take ownership of their life.
“Just having the resources and the opportunities that you don’t really have in the urban city as you do in several minutes south suburban schools or just neighborhoods," Farmer said. "I think building back up Troost, and I think just building back up Kansas City, with all the negativity that you have, bringing some positivity to the city is what we’re aiming for.“
In addition to shoes, educational and life resources, the shop sells clothing from six local lines, rent free.
“It cost so much to be in stores and to have overhead, and these same local clothing lines are selling out their trunk and doing pop-up shops and things like that," Thornhill said, "so we wanted to provide a space where they can sell their products and the kids can also push it."
The extra profits from low overhead go back into the building's expenses , which, once again, the teens handle.
"It’s like being realistic and putting those things that you’re good at, but you don’t really notice that you’re good at, working towards that to get to where you want to be," Farmer said.
Thornhill said his student employees know what it costs to run the building, get inventory and pay themselves.
"They just want a chance," he said, "and that’s why OnePair was created – to give these kids chances and give them opportunities to thrive their life and say hey I can do this.“
Inside each mystery box is a pair of shoes, a clothing item and a letter from staff at the store.
Their goal is to gift one to the students who graduated during an unprecendented year amid a global pandemic.
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