John’s Crazy Socks Celebrates Its Fourth Anniversary

December 9th fell on a Friday in 2016 and at 2:15 that afternoon, John Cronin leaned over a keyboard and pressed a button. At that moment, John's Crazy Socks sprang to life.

It was so exciting to see the website go live, but John’s Crazy Socks has never been just a website or just a sock store. It has been a dream. It was John’s dream to create meaningful work for himself, that Down syndrome would not hold him back. It was John’s dream to work with his Dad, to create a father-son business. And it has been our dream that we could build a business based on the simple idea of spreading happiness. We dreamed that we could find success because we hired people with differing abilities. We could find success by giving back, that donating money had to be part of our core. It is a dream that business success would come from doing for others, taking care of our customers, our colleagues and our community.

John and Mark at work

It began as John’s dream and then he shared it with me, his father. And that dream has now grown beyond us. John and I are the faces of the business, but we do nothing alone. We’ve been fortunate to work with many great people. We have found a strategic partner who has put us on solid footing. We have received support from so many people and organizations, big and small. Most of all, we have found a community of customers who value what we offer and support us. Our customers make everything we do possible. We are so fortunate and so grateful.

Here is how our team describes John’s Crazy Socks to new employees: “We are on a great big adventure. We are bold. We are risk takers. We are creative and love to innovate. We will reach beyond our grasp. Yes, we fail, but we get right back up. We walk the path that others may not take and relish in that journey. We are not like every other company, do not follow in the paths made by others and do not live by their norms. We dream big and have an obligation to our dreams.”

It is the dream that drives us. I have often said that John and I are a couple of knuckleheads from Long Island selling socks, yet all we want to do is change the world.

john and mark in Washington DC

And four years later, we’re still living the dream. Of course, it has not always been easy. Twice, we teetered on the verge of going under. We’ve had to find our way through a pandemic. The Small Business Administration reports that 20% of new businesses fail in their first year and that 50% are gone by their fifth year. Yet, here we are, not just standing, but thriving. As John says, “We’re just getting started.”

We can paint a picture of the first four years in numbers, none more important than the fact that we have created 32 year-round jobs and 22 of those jobs are filled by people with a differing ability. Many of our colleagues received their first paychecks here because no one else would hire them. John said we should start a business and we should sell socks, now 32 people have jobs. How cool is that?

Staff at John's Crazy Socks

There are more numbers:

Did you know that John offers more socks than any other company, making John’s Crazy Socks the world’s largest sock store? Or think about 172,000 customers: that is enough to fill a city: it is the population of Eugene, Oregon.

And think about that last number. In our dream, it is never enough to just sell stuff. Businesses have to give back and that is baked into everything we do. John is a Special Olympic athlete and he has raised $100,000 for the Special Olympics alone. How cool is that?

John is a Special Olympic athlete

Of course, our business is about more than numbers. It is the people we get to touch:

  • Nicholas, one of our newest Sock Wranglers, running to show his Mom his first paycheck, skipping with glee.
  • John “Brick” Bleecker, whose smile on the job could light up the City of Philadelphia, coming in every day to declare that he loves working at John’s Crazy Socks.
  • Elissa, a Sock Wrangler who will proudly tell you how many new Sock Wranglers she has trained.
  • Leah who took the Sock Wrangler test three times before she passed it, determined because she wanted to be working and not stuck at home.
  • Gary who will proudly tell you of how he handles incoming shipments and knows where everything is located in our warehouse.
  • Will Howell, a young man with cerebral palsy, who found inspiration in John’s Crazy Socks to start his own business, Will Power Ties.
  • The student from a visiting high school who came to school the next day with a picture of him and John and told the teacher, “You see, I can do anything.”

The numbers cannot tell the story of Thomas. His mother began calling in the fall of 2017 seeking a job for Thomas. We had no openings, but she called every day. And when we asked about Thomas, she described a young man on the autism spectrum who was in a bad way. He was depressed and did not want to come out of his room. They had trouble getting him to shower or shave and he had not spoken to his father in over six months.

Thomas at work

When we had an opening, we invited Thomas to come out and join us. He took his training and passed our Sock Wrangler Test as if he was put on this earth to pull orders in a pick and pack warehouse.  Today, Thomas is showered and shaved and waiting for his father to drive him to work. And when he arrives, the young man who would not look at you or talk to anyone, now goes around and says good morning to everyone in the building.

Here is the reality of John’s Crazy Socks. We did nothing special for Thomas. We have no special programs, no special training and no government support. We simply gave him an opportunity to earn a job and we hired Thomas because of the good work he could do. Hiring Thomas was not altruism, it was good business.      

In past years on our anniversary, we threw open wide the doors of our warehouse and had a party complete with Santa and live music. In the midst of a pandemic, that is not possible. Instead, we celebrated by sharing some cake and saying thank you to our colleagues. I sit here now, watching our Sock Wranglers pick the many orders that will make our customers so happy. Our warehouse is busy and full of life, there is a joy that makes it seem like Santa's workshop. It is a dream come true, a dream we get to live out every day, a dream worthy of the commitment to keep making it real today and for years to come.    And every day, we thank our customers for making this dream possible.

John and Mark Hug