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A Bar Mitzvah is a special time for any Jewish boy. According to tradition, it’s the day when a boy becomes a man and takes his proper place in the Jewish Community. For Queens born shoe designer and avid collector Ronnie Fieg, it is a day that changed the course of his life forever, for much more than religious reasons. Fieg’s second cousin is David Z., owner and founder of the storied and trendsetting shoe store of the same name located in New York City. He was at Ronnie’s Bar Mitzvah, and came with a gift that not many 13 year-old’s could refuse. “David wanted to hand me a check for $5,000 for my Bar Mitzvah,” Ronnie Fieg recounts as we sit down to a slice of deep dish at Chicago’s Pequod’s Pizza in Lincoln Park. “I told him, ‘I don’t want a check, I want a job. Take that five grand and give me a job.’”
Thinking it would be a short time hire, David put Ronnie in the stock room of his warehouse, starting his young cousin at the very bottom. It didn’t matter to Ronnie, he just wanted to work. Following a 2-month stay in the warehouse that ended when Ronnie fell off a ladder, he was moved to the stock room of the store. At the age of 15 he received another birthday present in the form of a salesman position. “I was like this little rat, running around and selling shoes,” he says in between bites of pizza. “It was a memorable time for me. It was right when Bigge’s second album came out, and I was working on 8th street. That store was a staple. It was more of a trendsetting store than any store you will ever know in your entire life.”
Ronnie moved up from salesman to assistant manager, then from assistant manager to manager. After that he became a buyer, before becoming the general buyer for David Z. It was a special time for the brand, one that did the first shoe collaboration ever, working with Timberland and other brands to create custom pieces. It was also a special time for New York Hip Hop as artists such as Jay-Z, The Fugees, Fat Joe, and Diddy became mega-stars, and Ronnie was there to make sure they all had the freshest kicks. “Biggie, Nas, Jay-Z, Fat Joe, Timbaland, NBA players, everyone was coming through the shop. I was star struck for the first 3 weeks, but after that it was just regular… I sold Jay-Z shoes, Lauryn Hill, Diddy. It’s kind of surreal, you know.”
Since getting his start at David Z., Ronnie has built his own name in the shoe game through a series of high quality and creative collaborations with brands such as Asics, Sebago, Adidas, Clarks, New Balance, and many others, all of which seem to sell out in record times. His accomplishments are many, and they only push him to do bigger and better things. And so, after a day of visiting Chicago’s street wear stores and before being honored as a member of SGB’s 40 Under 40, Ronnie is sitting with us at Pequod’s, ready to talk about his new venture, KITH, a men’s only shoe store he plans to open soon in New York City in a unique partnership with NYC denim shop, Atrium.
In the video below, Ronnie gives us the details on the new shop, the motivation behind his brand, and the skill of knowing what people will want.