James Van Doren died Oct. 12 at his home in Fullerton after a long illness. He was 72.
Van Doren and his older brother Paul had only sample sneakers to offer when they opened their first store, in Anaheim, in 1966. They took a dozen orders in the morning and delivered custom canvas deck shoes, made in their adjacent factory, in the afternoon.
Operating as the Van Doren Rubber Co., the brothers and two other co-founders planned to succeed by cutting out the middleman and selling their distinctive thick rubber-soled shoes directly to the public.
By the early 1970s, the company owed some of its success to Southern California's burgeoning skateboard culture. The shoes were especially valued for the sticky rubber soles that helped skaters grip their boards — an innovation devised by Van Doren.
From the start, the casual shoes were known by a single name: Vans.