An iconic American skateboarding shoe company launched a customized sneaker this week to support an independently-owned Burnsville comic book store.
Mind's Eye Comics landed a limited edition merchandise line under the Vans' company "Foot the Bill" initiative. The merchandise went for sale Feb. 17.
The initiative selects small businesses to design their own Vans shoe and T-shirt in efforts to support community-driven businesses through the pandemic, according to the company's website.
Eric Childs, the owner of Mind's Eye Comics, said the opportunity found him.
When Vans representatives went looking for a comic book store to feature during Black History Month, they found Mind's Eye; the only Black-owned comics shop in Minnesota.
"It's a wonderful opportunity," Childs said, adding the pandemic shutdowns dealt a "heavy, heavy, blow," to the business.
Under the initiative, Vans produces up to 1,000 pairs of shoes and 250 t-shirts per partner, and all net proceeds go directly to the business.
Mind's Eye Comics joins around a dozen businesses with merchandise for sale through the initiative currently.
Harriet's Bookshop in Philadelphia, Portrait Coffee in Atlanta and 606 Records in Chicago name a few of the other chosen businesses. Earlier this year, First Avenue in Minneapolis landed a spot.
Childs, an artist, said the design is inspired by both this personal journey and the comics themselves.
"The pinhole leather on the quarter panels reflects the halftone screen used in comic book printing," he wrote in a product description. "The graphic on the toe isn't just the brand, it's also a reflection of panels in a comic book. These panels are unique, as they capture my journey and allow the wearer to walk that journey with me."
The design also features pictures from his personal life, such as a photo of his parents and the original shop owners.
Childs had been shopping at the original Mind's Eye Comics store in Eagan since it opened in 1998, and took over the business around three years ago and moved it to Burnsville.
One photo on the shoe features Damon Lindelof — the famed screenwriter and comic book writer who created HBO's Watchman series.
Lindelof reached out to Childs during the pandemic to lend support for the brick-and-mortar comics business.
"He said 'Eric, Mind's Eye needs to stay wide open,'" Childs recalled.
The Vans initiative is the latest recognition of the store's role in cultivating community.
Childs, who found comics through his fourth-grade teacher, focuses much of his work around education.
He recently partnered with the comics club at Eastview High School and hopes to encourage the formation of similar clubs at local schools.
Inside the store, Childs said the Vans initiative will help him obtain the capital needed to hire new employees and continue curating and expanding relevant titles for readers.
"It is most definitely a huge community building platform," Childs said. "Comic shops — although you can purchase (comics) on many different outlets online — people still love to come to the shop for that sense of community."