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Sneaker restoration kicks it up a notch

SALISBURY – Kari Johnson launched her sneaker cleaning and restoration business, K’s Kicks, more than a year ago after finding her niche in grade school.

“I’ve always been a person that liked sneakers, from the time I was a kid,” Johnson said. “When I got sneakers, I would sit down, get all of my shoes out and clean all of the ones that needed to be cleaned. I like for my stuff to look as clean as possible.”

“When I was in middle school, I would sit and draw them. It was then I became really fascinated with shoes,” Johnson said.

A graduate of Salisbury High School and Livingstone College, Johnson works for Amazon. But in her spare time, she designs, repairs, paints and restores shoes locally.

Johnson is able to change the look of sneakers by painting them and restores them to look new by cleaning, removing stains and making repairs.

She learned everything she knows about shoe restoration through online research and practice.

“I really got started with the business after I did a personal project for myself. I found a few shoes from a consignment store, and I posted a few pictures on my social media page,” she said. “I’ve mainly marketed by business through others by word of mouth.”

Johnson runs her business from home.

“The first thing I do is clean them. I do a deep cleaning (and) remove the old paint. Most shoes have an outer layer. You have to get all the old paint off, repaint the shoe, seal it, and then use certain sealers to keep it from cracking,” she said. “It’s a simple process and becomes a lot easier over time.”

“I do everything by hand. … I take the time to tape the shoe off and pay attention to detail,” she said.

Johnson envisions one day opening a store.

“In the custom area, customers could sit down with me to design their shoe, pick out everything they would want their shoes to have, from paint colors, themes, and any additional things like leather or different colored laces to add to the shoe,” she said. “In this area I would also hold small classes on the basics of painting and customizing shoes.”

Johnson said her store would sell shoes as well as shoe accessories such as socks, shoelaces and cleaning products.

Johnson also envisions a “laundry service area” for shoe care. The service would provide customers with the option of dropping their shoes off and choosing the service they need, from deep cleaning to stain removal.

“I do everything from home, and I want to be able to one day have an actual location where you can come inside for service,” Johnson said.

“I’ve actually thought about maybe teaching a basic ‘how to paint a shoe’ class for kids to try out and participate in. In it I would highlight the proper way to clean a shoe, what to use to clean it, and how to clean it. I would offer this class once a month, possibly,” Johnson said.

She recently had the opportunity to speak with students at North Rowan High School and West Rowan High School about her business.

“I don’t necessarily want to become a billionaire off of my business, but I do want to maybe one day create custom shoes for famous athletes,” said Johnson.

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