Paul Van Doren, a co-founder of Vans, has passed away on May 6 at the age of 90, shortly after the publication of his biography, titled “Authentic.” He started as a service boy at a rubber factory at the age of 16. He acquired his independence in 1966 when he and his brother Jim opened the first store of the Van Doren Rubber Co. with two friends, Gordon Lee and Serge Delia, in Anaheim, California.
Their canvas tennis shoes were made to order and picked up a few hours later at an initial price of $2.49 per pair. It was only later that the business became known as the House of Vans. Its flat and grippy shoes were adopted by the skateboarding community in Southern California in the 1970s, building up to a chain of 70 stores across the state, ready to expand to the rest of the country and abroad.
Paul Van Doren ran the company for only ten years, as his brother Jim took over the management in 1976. A venture capital group bought the company in 1988 for $74 million, when its sales had grown to an annual level of around $50 million. Vans went public in 1991, and the company was than purchased by VF Corp. in 2004 for almost $400 million, after a major international development of the brand. Vans is now generating annual revenues of around $2 billion.
“It is with a heavy heart that Vans announces the passing of our co-founder, Paul Van Doren. Paul was not just an entrepreneur; he was an innovator,” announced Vans in an Instagram post. “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,” added the company.