COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Paul Van Doren, who helped build a single Anaheim store into the Vans sneaker and clothing empire, has died at age 90, the company announced Friday.
"It's with a heavy heart that Vans announces the passing of our co-founder, Paul Van Doren," the company tweeted.
"Paul was not just an entrepreneur; he was an innovator. We send our love and strength to the Van Doren family and the countless Vans Family members who have brought Paul's legacy to life."
Van Doren, with his brother Jim and two other partners, opened their first location of the Van Doren Rubber Co. in 1966 in Anaheim. The company history notes 12 people bought shoes that day, which were made on order and ready for pickup by the afternoon.
Eventually the Vans shoes - and later clothing - became a popular element in the Southern California skateboard culture of the 1970s. By the end of the decade, the company had 70 stores in California and was exporting its shoes around the country.
In popular culture, the company received a big boost when Sean Penn wore a pair of Vans in the 1982 film "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," hitting his head with the checkerboard shoes in one notable scene.
Van Doren and his partner Gordy Lee sold the company in 1988 to a banking firm for $74 million.
The VF Corp. bought Vans in 2004 for nearly $400 million and continues to own the brand along with a variety of other clothing companies and businesses.
Vans is headquartered in Costa Mesa, Calif.