Orthopedic footwear brand and low-key icon of dad style Birkenstock has always had a strong following in the U.S. From its early associations with San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury hippie culture to its current status as the penultimate shoe for stylish father figures, it’s carried at a ton of stockists around America, but hasn’t had its own flagship store—until now.
Birkenstock just opened its first company-owned retail outpost in New York’s eminently shoppable SoHo neighborhood, located in a historic building on 120 Spring Street. According to David Kahan, CEO of Birkenstock Americas, while the brand’s (for lack of a better term) footprint is strong in boutiques and footwear stores already, New York made the most sense for the first flagship. Like Birkenstock’s ability to appeal to sneaker boutiques like Concepts and fashion designers like Rick Owens, SoHo offers a similarly eclectic mix that Birkenstock fits into.
“The SoHo area we’re in is one of the only places on the face of the Earth that has every luxury brand, every cool brand, all of the athletic brands, Apple, and great places to eat all within fifty blocks,” says Kahan. “You get a mix of tourists and you get a mix of locals,” he adds.
The store reflects the brand’s German heritage and penchant for using high-quality materials. Cork and leather accents channel the composition of the brand’s most famous footwear, while an open atrium and second floor lounge that houses special projects and collaboration contribute to a cozy, comfortable atmosphere that aligns with the type of mood Birkenstock is known for. It’s not about giving the shopping-saturated neighborhood another paean to mindless consumerism, but a way for the brand to tell its story in a physical space.
“The world does not need another shoe store,” says Kahan. “What we opened is not just a shoe store; it is truly an emotional brand statement. It’s walking into the Birkenstock world, really getting the full brand immersion, and that’s why we get everyone from the grandma who has foot problems to millennial teenagers to the sneakerheads.”
In short, he hopes that the store embodies the cross-section where all Birkenstock’s consumers meet in the middle. Kahan also points out a detail that makes New York an especially important market for the brand: “The average New Yorker walks 3.2 miles every day,” he says. Who better to have walking by a Birkenstock store? People—whose feet are probably hurting—come upon this brand that truthfully is orthopedically correct and is a godsend.”
The new Birkenstock store is also the first place that U.S. consumers can shop the full range of product from the line, including collaborations with Rick Owens and 10 Corso Como. Of course, global Birkenstock CEO Oliver Reichert previously made headlines when he said the brand reportedly denied doing collaborations with Supreme and VETEMENTS, but that hasn’t stopped the company from partnerships that make sense. In regards to its ongoing collaboration with Concepts, Kahan says it was ideal to have a Massachusetts-based boutique reinterpret the “Boston” clog.
To celebrate the new flagship, Birkenstock has partnered with creative director and artist Amit Greenberg—who has previously worked with IKEA, colette, and Band of Outsiders—on a collaborative campaign, T-shirt, and an Arizona sandal.
The cartoonish campaign adds a humorous perspective to daily New York life and Birkenstock’s place in it. It will appear in billboards and posters across the city teasing limited-edition products and hopes to drive people to check out the new shop. Amit’s collaborative Arizona sandal is limited to 100 pieces and retails for $200, while his T-shirt costs $40 and will only be sold in the store.
Birkenstock SoHo is located at 120 Spring Street and is open Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
Now read more about how Birkenstock built its brand on consistency and comfort.