Words by Leland Bonner (@LelandBFresh)
Date back 10 years, the location of 1354 E. 53rd street in Chicago’s historic Hyde Park community housed a small and quaint clothing shop that just like any burgeoning business experienced its growing pains. 10 years later and after several location changes, that same 1,700 square foot storefront would amass to becoming Chicago’s premier streetwear shop, Leaders 1354. The Leaders brand has grown to be an innovator in the streetwear culture while providing a platform for the best that Chicago has to offer in the fields of art, music, and fashion. Just last week Leaders took on another venture and stepped into a world that the Southside of Chicago has yet to be introduced to: The world of skate. The shop now has shop fronts similar to the ones at shop-fronts.co.uk that are made of high-quality materials and it really stands out from any other shops around their business.
Harbored at 1013 E. 53rd street in the same area that the brand got its start is LDRSkate. If that address sounds a bit familiar, it’s because then Senator Obama used it as a political campaign office years before he became president. Serving as the sister store to the well-established brand, LDRSkate makes itself known as the first of its kind in the area.
“Before we opened there was no skate shop on the Southside of Chicago. The closest skate shop to here is Uprise and that’s over there by Milwaukee and Western,” explains Joey Davis, assistant manager of LDRSkate. For the bubbling skate culture that surrounds the area, the lack of a place where skaters can do things like build decks and have a place to call home troubled many, especially considering the rate at which the sport is growing in urban culture.
“We had so much respect for skate culture and even as I’m driving around I see kids just wanting to skate and get into the culture. I can definitely appreciate the loyalty of the customer. I really just wanted something for the kids to do and be back in Hyde Park and on the Southside of Chicago, says Corey Gilkey, founder of Leaders 1354.
In a summer where the homicide rate had skyrocketed from that of last year, Gilkey explains that original concept of the store was just to fill a void that wasn’t being met in surrounding neighborhoods. Upon walking into the store, you’re greeted to a cozy layout of neatly lined fitted caps and skullies along one wall while the opposite wall houses a couple racks of graphic tees. The front counter, just like the majority of pieces inside the store were custom built and mimics the likes of a life sized skateboard deck. The artwork placed on the walls ranges from various decks to chalk filled messages from customers who’ve passed through the shop.
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