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Ubiq, Philly’s famous sneaker boutique, becomes Atmos USA

UBIQ, which started in the former Gallery Mall and has become a streetwear staple in this city for nearly 20 years, is merging with atmos, a Japanese brand.

The UBIQ store on Walnut Street in Center City, with Atmos name on the front door at left, Nov. 11, 2020. UBIQ is merging with the international company Atmos to create  Atmos USA.
The UBIQ store on Walnut Street in Center City, with Atmos name on the front door at left, Nov. 11, 2020. UBIQ is merging with the international company Atmos to create Atmos USA.Read moreJOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer

Ubiq, Philly’s famous sneaker boutique, which started in the former Gallery mall and has been a streetwear staple in the city for nearly 20 years, is merging with Atmos, a Japanese brand, to create Atmos USA, the companies announced last week.

Atmos has 38 stores across Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Indonesia, as well as one New York City location, and is joining with Philadelphia-based Ubiq to launch its U.S. expansion, according to Ubiq spokesperson Marissa Le. Ubiq will retain its full-time employees working in stores and in the home office to lead the new Atmos USA brand. John Lee, the Ubiq founder and CEO, will become the president of Atmos USA.

“While we’re proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish as Ubiq, we’re even more excited for what the future holds, bringing the energy and excitement of Atmos Japan here,” Lee said in a release. “We’re working on collaborations for the year ahead, and have some key releases lined up in the future.”

Le called the Atmos USA announcement “more of a partnership” than an acquisition, in order to “stake out the U.S. presence.” The details of the deal were not disclosed.

Billy Penn first reported on the merger this week.

Ubiq first opened in the former Gallery in 2002, before expanding to its current, longtime Walnut Street location, Le confirmed. That store and one in Washington that opened in 2016 will now carry the Atmos USA name.

“When we first opened, people were literally running to our store because they didn’t know what to make of it,” Lee, the Ubiq founder, told Complex in February. “They’d never seen a sneaker store like that before.”

Dan McQuade remembers going to that Gallery location as a teenager and how Ubiq was “always a really cool sneaker store.” He’s written about how Ubiq does its widely popular sneaker collaborations and how he camped out in line for the release of the Ubiq collaboration with New Balance on the NB 1600, the Benjamin.

McQuade, now 37 and a multimedia editor at Defector, said he walked into the Walnut Street store last week and saw signs of the Atmos USA rebranding.

“It’s clear that it’s not a Philadelphia brand anymore, I guess. Now, it’s some other brand. I guess that’s just how it works,” McQuade said. “There are fewer and fewer local sneaker stores, and now there’s another one gone.”

Since its inception, Ubiq has become part of the fabric of Philadelphia, collaborating with famed institutions such as South Philly Barbacoa, creating custom Philly-themed kicks, and donating 500 pairs of shoes to health-care workers at Philadelphia hospitals.

The brand is posting on Instagram under its “Ubiqlife” account, reminiscing and promoting swag that pays homage to the brand as it becomes Atmos USA.

Lee became interested in the sneaker business through his father-in-law, who owned Samsun, a Philly sneaker store, according to Complex. The founders of both Ubiq and Atmos met in Philadelphia in 1996 during “the gold rush of sneakers,” said Hommyo Hidefumi, Atmos founder and CEO. The following year, they launched Chapter World in Japan, where they sourced vintage sneakers and clothes, before starting their own brands.

Since then, Ubiq has been named one of the 10 U.S. stores that “helped define streetwear," according to a February Complex ranking.

“It’s exciting to connect back to the city where it all started," Hidefumi said in the news release.

Unlike other streetwear shops in the late 2000s, Ubiq has been able to stay open and relevant, the Complex article said, noting that Ubiq became a destination, with famous guests stopping by, including Questlove, Meek Mill, the Clipse and Travis Scott.

“We’re one of the pioneering stores and because of our location, we didn’t get a lot of recognition for what we did and what we brought to the market," Lee told Complex in February. "But we’re proud to be part of Philadelphia and we’re going to continue to support the city.”