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Vans co-founder Paul Van Doren dies at 90

Published May 7, 2021

ANAHEIM, Calif. (BRAIN) — Paul Van Doren, who began selling Vans sneakers at a store in Anaheim, California, in 1966, died Thursday at age 90, the company announced. Vans shoes defined skate style and were the default BMX shoe from the sport's Old School days until today.

"Paul was not just an entrepreneur; he was an innovator. The Van Doren Rubber Company was the culmination of a lifetime of experimentation and hard work in the shoe industry. Paul’s bold experiments in product design, distribution and marketing, along with his knack for numbers and efficiency turned a family shoe business into a globally recognized brand," the company said in an Instagram post Friday.

"We send our love and strength to the Van Doren family and the countless Vans Family members who have brought Paul’s legacy to life. Thank you for everything, Paul. You will be sorely missed," the post said.

Paul Van Doren launched the store with his brother James and another partner, Gordon C. Lee. The business was a manufacturer and a retailer. After some success, especially following the appearance of some Vans slip-ons in 1982's "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," the company went bankrupt in 1984. New owners later took the company public and then sold it to VF Corp, the owner of The North Face and Timberland, in 2004 for nearly $400 million. 

Last month, Paul Van Doren published a memoir, "Authentic."

"A blue-collar kid with no higher education and zero retail experience, Van Doren started out as a 16-year-old "service boy" at a local rubber factory," the book's publisher wrote in promotional copy. "Over the next few decades, he leveraged a knack for numbers, a genius for efficiency, and the know-how to make a great canvas tennis shoe into an all-American success story. What began as a family shoe business has today evolved into a globally recognized brand with billions of dollars of annual revenue.

The cover of Van Doren's memoir, published last month.

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