Little Tokyo recently became home to the first brick-and-mortar location of Jason Markk, a company that specializes in cleaning products for sneakers. Now, the store is taking the concept one step further: on-site sneaker cleaning.
The store’s "sneaker care technicians" scrub, polish and deodorize for anywhere from $15 to $32 per pair.
Jason Mark Angsuvarn, the company’s founder and near namesake, says the business combines two of his obsessions: sneakers and cleanliness.
“I do remember my first pair of sneakers. They were a pair of black Flight 89’s and I loved them. I wore them everywhere," says Jason. "And I've always been a clean freak."
Even as a teen, Jason says he got frustrated with the generic shoe cleaning products you find at a mall or drugstore. He found them often too abrasive and potentially damaging to shoes.
So, he started creating cleaning mixtures and methods of his own.
“I’d use a mixture of household items. My thing was OxiClean, a little bit of dishwashing soap and that was it. If I had white laces, I’d use laundry detergent and a little bit of bleach,” says Jason. “That’s how the idea came about. I was just cleaning my shoes one night and I was thinking, ‘Man, there’s got to be something better.’”
Jason started asking around about how other people cleaned their sneakers, at shoe stores and in online forums. He said it was like asking people about their favorite hangover cure — everybody had their own home remedy.
Jason decided to create a cleaning product designed specifically for sneakers and the people who love them. After going through a handful of chemists and exhaustive testing, he was ready to start selling his cleaning kits online.
Sneaker connoisseurs took to it immediately, and seven years later, Jason’s company was doing so well that he opened up a flagship store location.
(Inside Jason Markk's flagship store in Little Tokyo. Photo courtesy of Jason Markk.)
Jason added the drop-off sneaker cleaning service to his plans for the store at the last minute, and to his surprise, it’s turned out to be the main attraction.
“We get everyone from, like, your super hardcore collector, to the soccer mom. In the location we’re in in Little Tokyo, there’s so much foot traffic,” says Jason.
Jason’s not kidding about his diverse clientele. Two on-duty cops came in to drop off sneakers while I was there.
“There are so many return customers now, it’s like an errand now. It’s not a special thing. It’s just like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna go to the groceries. I gotta go to the dry cleaners. I gotta go to Jason Markk,’” says Jason.
One Yelper begins their five-star review of Jason Markk like this: “If you laughed, appreciated and/or understood that scene in Do The Right Thing when Larry Bird runs over the ‘the brand new white Air Jordans’ then you need to bring your kicks here.”
(A before and after shot from Jason Markk's drop-off sneaker cleaning service. Photo courtesy of Jason Markk.)
Of course, as their customer base grows, the weird stories get weirder:
“This is kind of gory, but we had this pair of Bapes come in and they were just covered in blood,” says Jason. “The guy had almost blown his hand off during Fourth of July. It was really nasty. My guys are fearless. They just threw the gloves on and went at it. And they did a great job. They looked brand new.”
The hand healed fine, too.
Jason Markk's flagship sneaker cleaning store is located at 329 E. 2nd Street in Little Tokyo.