One of Oakland’s youngest black business owners has resisted pandemic closures and relocation to launch a vibrant new store on Lakeshore Avenue, where he aims to build community and support local youth.
Christian Walker, 29, grew up as a ‘sneakerhead’, having over 100 pairs of shoes by the age of 18.
Years ago, her best friend and cousin broke into her house and stole all of her belongings, including all of her shoes.
“But still, less than two years later, I had rebuilt my collection and realized I had a knack for it, and maybe a problem,” he said with a laugh.
He spent time working in retail stores and shoe shops, only to see many shut down as sales moved online and business rents in the Bay Area became unsustainable. Walker built relationships early in his career by buying at trade shows and constantly expanding his accounts and contact lists.
Walker told us that he worked at Sole Space in Oakland (formerly located on Telegraph between the 17th and 18th), and seeing it shut down, he decided it was time to try his hand at running it. ‘a company.
“Once Sole Space closed, sort of out of nowhere, I just worked to open my own store, building on existing relationships” in the shoe retail space, Walker said. He had made connections with shoe brands and fashion ambassadors during his short but productive career, and found a way to leverage them to support his new boutique.
His store, Studios, opened in Emeryville in November 2019, just months before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down in-person shopping and made brand launch events impossible.
Rather than give up, Walker doubled down. He has always offered shopping options online, but has found creative ways to stay in touch with potential customers on social media. But the rent for the Emeryville space was non-negotiable and he began to look for new locations.
Walker said moving to the Lakeshore site (at 3319 Lakeshore Ave., near Trestle Glen) was “kind of a big risk,” given window breakage which has been a frequent concern in the area recently. But the owners are “really nice people” and it was able to fully reopen in May 2021 after a few rounds of negotiations.
In the new space, Studios offers urban footwear and clothing, as well as barber services. Walker also hosts musical and cultural events, as well as bespoke shoe and fashion workshops.
Beyond shoes, Studios offers hats, clothing, and barber services. | Studios / Facebook
“He’s taller than me,” Walker said. “I want to spark brains in the community.”
He noted that business owners of color are super rare in the surrounding community, and he hopes to inspire and influence young people to create and pursue their ideas, no matter what obstacles or opposition they face.
“I had a dream of owning a shoe store, and now I have a space to inspire other young people in Oakland,” he said. Her mother, Ashara Ekundayo, also worked to create an arts community and local venues to support under-recognized artists of color and provide opportunities for local youth.
The studios’ new location on Lakeshore has a lot more foot traffic than Walker saw in Emeryville, and there is a wide range of clients, from young people just interested in fashion to adults with more disposable income. raised. Walker aims to cater for everyone, offering everything from standard vans to bespoke options that can cost over $ 250 a pair.
He also intends to organize events that strengthen the community in the underrated Lakeshore region of Oakland. You can join the store’s mailing list or follow Studios on social media to stay up to date with new events and custom design workshops.
“I tell people you have to keep investing in yourself,” Walker said. “Invest in yourself, your family and your community. Having a business can help you do that.
The studios are open Monday from noon to 6 p.m. and Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.