UNKNWN - the game-changing apparel lifestyle brand, concept retail store, and community venue founded by Akron, Ohio natives Jaron Kanfer, Frankie Walker Jr. and LeBron James opened its doors for the first time in Akron in September 2022. The brand opened its existing brick and mortar location in Miami in 2019.
The founders say bringing the UNKNWN brand to their hometown had been the plan since day one, with the opening now providing an opportunity to be an active, permanent player in the community through its unique retail offering and community focused experiences.
“We’re just a couple of kids from Akron, but we always knew that one day we’d like to give back and help build up our community in every way possible. Investing in Akron with this new UNKNWN location means a lot to us and all the kids who continue to believe in their dreams,” said LeBron James. “We’re grateful to all the people who mentored, inspired, and paved the way in making this space, a place built to bring people together, possible. And I’m proud of the work the team and our co-founders Jaron and Frankie continue to do in business and philanthropy to support our community day in and day out. I can’t wait for everyone to see this special space that was designed by and for Akron.” -LeBron James, Co-founder, UNKNWN
The 2,300 square foot store is located in Downtown Akron at 199 S Main Street, also known as King James Way. The location, next to Lock 3 Park, and every aspect of its design were chosen with the intention to celebrate and serve the City of Akron and the surrounding Ohio communities.
The store layout is modular, with the intention of regularly hosting onsite events, installations, workshops and programs that address the needs of the community as well as showcase locals in a range of fields. The brand also brings its UNKNWN Fit Club workout program already active at the Miami location. Workouts will partner with locally-owned gyms, studios and local pros to offer classes like yoga, HIIT, running and more. Details for UNKNWN Fit Clubs and other events will be available at UNKNWN.com/events.
With a designer driven selection, the founders say the store's aesthetic, a mix of natural textures and a warm color palette, is a signature part of the brand’s DNA and key to creating the welcoming, inclusive environment that makes the brand so universal. The natural design elements are in part inspired by Ohio’s natural beauty and spirit.
Two permanent, local fixtures to the space come from Lake Eerie and the University of Akron. Large, multi-branch driftwood locally sourced from Lake Eerie is the venue’s centerpiece, reaching from floor to near ceiling wrapped by a bench providing seating alongside the sneaker wall. UNKNWN partnered with students from the University of Akron’s Myers School of Art to design and create retail fixtures from concept to creation. Teams of students under the direction of Professor Robert Kelemen, Professor of Instruction, Graphic Designer from the Myers School of Art, worked closely with UNKNWN’s founders and design team for several months to present and revise concepts for a large scale conceptual and functional feature in the store to have their works realized.
The partnership with University of Akron is emblematic of the types of community partnerships UNKNWN plans to cultivate, focusing on long term relationships rather than one off collaborations.
“The UNKNWN brand was born in Akron and based on our experience growing up here together. We wanted the store to reflect that, from its look to our programing. Our Akron location is an opportunity for us to continue being part of the growth of the community, in a permanent capacity. Akron is constantly evolving and we want to play a part in that journey through an inclusive retail experience and special events for the community. We’re excited to continue our partnership supporting the Summit Lake Community Center - which we refurbished earlier this year - and continuing to bring global partners to Ohio.” -Frankie Walker Jr. and Jaron Kanfer, Co-founders, UNKNWN
A focal point of the retail space, echoing its Miami location, is a floor to ceiling sneaker wall displaying up to 125+ pairs for sale. The sneaker display will rotate regularly to feature the newest, most coveted drops and quick strikes from brands like Nike, Jordan, PUMA, Reebok, Vans, Adidas, Visvim, Maison Margiela, Converse, New Balance, and more.
The retail layout includes space dedicated to showcasing work from local designers and creators like Midwest Kids and Renowned alongside established brands like Fear of God, Rhude, BAPE, and Stone Island.
In addition to its curated mix of designer, casual and athletic brands, the UNKNWN’s brick and mortar doors will feature its in-house brand, including graphic, sportswear apparel, core collections and cut and sew pieces. The founders are focused on expanding the namesake brand in the upcoming seasons, crediting the seasonality and culture of midwestern areas like Ohio as a key inspiration for the design team.
UNKNWN will continue to represent continuity between its two physical store locations, offering UNKNWN brand and other collaborations exclusively onsite at both stores.
199 S Main Street
Akron, OH 44308
Open Daily from 11am-7pm