The Marketing Savant Who Helmed a Sneaker Store

Meet Bernie Gross, the creative director of Extra Butter

Born and raised in New York, Bernie Gross is the creative director of Extra Butter. Unofficially, he has touched the Extra Butter brand since its inception. Formerly a mom and pop sneaker store on Long Island (one that "had its community on lock in terms of customer service," according to Gross), Extra Butter was officially founded in 2007, with its goal being to house upscale products with a premium presentation. 

And the Lower East Side store delivers. Surrounded by the latest streetwear jawns and sneaker releases, the gleaming brick and mortar embodiment of the Extra Butter brand is nostalgic, polished and memorable. Velvet burgundy theater seats sit squarely in the center of the action, while an authentic concession stand displays grooming products and accouterment to keep your sneakers clean. "Everything is through a cinematic lens," Gross says to ONE37pm one morning, his haircut expertly faded and his pants an unreleased Extra Butter sample in neon orange.

After years in marketing and the corporate world—while also moonlighting as a tried and true sneakerhead—Gross led with passion. In 2012, he joined Extra Butter as the creative director. His current duties encompass leading the art and marketing departments on private label products, collaborations, retail experiences and brand partnerships.

As the Fashion Institute of Technology-educated graphic designer adopted his new role, he saw inadequacies on Instagram. "We weren't moving the needle in the way that we wanted," Gross said. "We needed to make ourselves uncomfortable." Now, the brand considers social media to be a tremendous asset. As a creative director, Gross is strategizing more significant storytelling moments, responding in the day to day with consumers and adjusting weekly for tone and attitude.

"Movie theaters gather hundreds of people together to enjoy the same product, and that's what we do," he said. But with sneakers.

If you want to work at Extra Butter, you need to work your ass off. "Once you get your foot in the door, it's not the HOV lane. Your work is your portfolio. Are people co-signing your passion?" Learn what it takes to run the business, Gross suggests. Get into your tasks. Don't be afraid to clean the bathrooms. "Work is a video game. You can't win without beating every level."

Work is a video game. You can't win without beating every level.

- Bernie Gross, Creative Director of Extra Butter

Extra Butter's exclusive releases often draw a crowd. "I don't care if it's ten people or a line around the block, I get so excited." As a kid, standing in line was Gross' favorite pastime. He'd stand patiently, chop it up with fellow hopefuls, converse with the shop owners and leave with a coveted drop. "In this age of e-commerce and digital services, it's about customer service and empowering your community. You can't do that from home."

In the beginning, Gross' parents weren't entirely on board. His jump from a stable marketing agency life—and money—to creatively running a shop was a risk. But now, when he sends his mom pictures of people lining up around the block to experience the magic that is Extra Butter, she gets it. "Have patience, keep your head down and seek opportunities to show your skillset and compassion."

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