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John’s Crazy Socks

By Michael Scro

The Town of Huntington hosted its 3rd annual Polar Plunge event at Frank P. Petrone Crab Meadow Beach on Sunday, Dec. 10, when well over 100 participants bravely made their way into the frigid water for a worthy cause, helping to raise more than $22,000 for Special Olympic athletes.

With temperatures unseasonably warm — at high 40s, low 50s — on the cloudy December morning, the water was somewhat more tolerable but still sent most plungers into shivers and cold shock as soon as they hit the water.

Town of Huntington Councilman Dave Bennardo (R) thanked everyone for attending, including students from neighboring schools such as Elwood, South Huntington and Northport, highlighting “the real stars of the show being our friends from the Special Olympics.”

John Cronin and his father, Mark, from John’s Crazy Socks, a Farmingdale-based business that sells various themed socks and donates 5% of its earnings to the Special Olympics, co-hosted the event with the town. Bennardo also pointed out that John Cronin has done 10 Polar Plunges, prompting a round of applause.

“John is an inspiration,” Bennardo said. “If he can do all the great things he’s done, we can certainly plunge in the water once for our Special Olympic friends,” adding, “Today, we put aside differences and different sides of the aisle and focus on something that has no downside — taking care of people we love.”

With John Cronin by his father’s side, Mark asked if he was ready to take another plunge, to which he happily replied, “I was born ready.” John and his father also handed participants polar bear-themed socks to help keep them warm after the plunge.

Huntington Town Councilman Salvatore Ferro presented the employees of John’s Crazy Socks with a proclamation prior to Huntington’s Town Board meeting on March 14. 

Along with Mark and John Cronin, the father-son team that created John’s Crazy Socks, a social enterprise with the mission to spread happiness, John’s Crazy Socks employees Carol Cronin, Jordan Lerner, Masoom Syed, Cara Hayman, Gary Rottkamp, Kenny Majorana, Andrew Neter, Maria Lerner, Stephanie Sheridan, Samantha Salvo, Ronald Torres, Jacob Greene and Maggie Kearney were recognized during National Disability Awareness Month to show the many possibilities of people with differing abilities.      

“It gave me great pleasure to recognize Mark and John Cronin, along with their colleagues from John’s Crazy Socks during National Disability Awareness Month,” said Councilman Ferro in a statement. 

“The many employees at John’s Crazy Socks have demonstrated the great things people with differing abilities can do when given the opportunity. Their philanthropic efforts are abundant and have had a positive impact on society. Some of their philanthropic achievements include creating charity awareness socks, raising more than $550,000 for their charity partners which include the National Down Syndrome Society and the Autism Society of America and donating five percent of all earnings to the Special Olympics. They exemplify the best of society in their mission to spread happiness.”

Leg. Sarah Anker with Schiavone. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Suffolk County Legislator Sam Gonzalez (D-Brentwood) was joined with local and national officials this week, urging Suffolk County to adopt a bill he spearheaded that would make March 21  Down Syndrome Awareness Day.

Leg. Gonzalez talking with Derek and Hazel. Photo by Julianne Mosher

“The idea behind this was something that has been in the works for some time now,” he said. 

There are three phases to it — county, state and eventually federal. 

“This day is acknowledged around the world and by the United Nations,” Gonzalez said. “I just couldn’t understand why it wasn’t something that was recognized here.”

During the press conference on May 18 outside the county offices in Hauppauge, elected officials from both parties supported their colleague who passionately has moved the bill forward. They proudly stood next to advocates with Down syndrome, like Brittany Schiavone, founder of Brittany’s Baskets of Hope, Daniel Fletcher of the Special Olympics World Games and John Cronin founder of John’s Crazy Socks.

Daniel Fletcher, Brittany Schiavone, Suffolk County Leg. Sam Gonzalez, Janissa Lloyd, John Cronin and Nassau County Leg. Joshua Lafazan

“This resolution declaring March 21, as Down Syndrome Awareness Day is long overdue,” said Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport). “It’s been recognized all over the world to bring attention and to create a voice advocating for the rights, inclusion and the well-being of people with Down syndrome.”

Spencer added that Down syndrome occurs in one in 700 births. There are currently 400,000 people living in the United States with Down syndrome — half of those people with heart defects. 

“Down Syndrome Awareness Day is to encourage more people to learn about this condition, to celebrate those living with it, and to recognize the ways in which medical advancements can boost their quality of life,” he said. 

Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) felt a personal connection to the bill. She said her cousin grew up with Down syndrome. 

“We have to get the word out,” she said. “We have folks who have Down syndrome that are superstars, that can do amazing, things that can inspire us.”

And by establishing a date that reminds people about this community only betters them in the future. 

“What’s also important about having a day like the Down Syndrome Awareness Day is talking about the needs of our community members going forward,” said Legislator Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue). “Some of these young men and women, as they grow older, they’re going to be looking for housing services, they’re going to be looking for ways to get out on their own and establish their own lives. And we need to make sure that we have those underlying resources available to them. We won’t do that unless we are talking about what those needs are.”

Centereach mom Karyn Degnan. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Centereach resident and mom of two children with Down syndrome Karyn Degnan said this is long-overdue. A board member with Patchogue-based GiGi’s Playhouse, she said she’s been surrounded by a supportive group and a day like this will help even more.

“I am excited for my kids to be recognized and for awareness to be brought to their disability,” she said. “I just couldn’t be happier.”

Legislator Nick Caracappa (R-Selden) knew this was special, too. 

“I don’t see inability,” he said. “When you have the ability to love, when you have the ability to appreciate, make something and give back to your communities. That’s not inability — that’s inspiring.”

Employees from John’s Crazy Socks with members of Huntington town board

Huntington Councilwoman Joan Cergol, at the Aug. 6 Town of Huntington board meeting, gave special recognition to Melville-based online retailer John’s Crazy Socks, which was cited recently as a winner of a national accounting firm’s Entrepreneur of the Year awards.

The company was founded two years ago by Huntington residents Mark X. Cronin and his son, John, upon John’s graduation from high school. John had said he wanted to go into business with his father, and they settled on one capitalizing on John’s fondness for unusual socks.

Mark and John Cronin with Councilwoman Joan Cergol

From humble beginnings, the firm has grown into one that produced $5.5 million in revenue in its second year, selling 2,300 varieties of socks and receiving more than 20,000 online reviews. A hallmark of the company is its dedication to having a social impact. More than half of its workforce has differing abilities, including John, who has Down syndrome.  Through videos, social media, school tours, work group and speaking engagements, the Cronins demonstrate what persons with differing abilities can do.

The company also pledges 5 percent of its earnings to the Special Olympics and donates money from its Awareness and Charity sock lines to other charity partners, including more than $300,000 for the National Down Syndrome Society, the Autism Society of America and the Williams Syndrome Association, among other groups. Mark and John Cronin have spread their message of maximizing potential and social consciousness through speaking engagements across the United States, Canada and Mexico.

In June, the accounting firm Ernst & Young presented John’s Crazy Socks with one of its 2019 New York Region Entrepreneur of the Year awards, in the Mission Drive category. The awards recognize entrepreneurs and leaders of high-growth companies for innovation, financial performance and their impact on the world.

“Their workplace is absolutely amazing,” said Cergol, who visited it a few months ago. “John and Mark Cronin are truly inspirational as role models for successful business plans and corporate responsibility. We have known this for some time, and it is exciting to see that they are receiving national recognition for their work. I wish them even greater success in the future.”

Photos from Town of Huntington

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John and Mark Cronin, center, came to speak in front of village residents and PJ SEPTA. Photo by David Luces

Village to call March 21 Crazy Sock Day

While a nice pair of socks draws the eyes down to the feet, John and Mark Cronin of John’s Crazy Socks ask that one look up, at the whole person and see what an individual can do, no matter the limits

As part of their ongoing speaking tour, John and Mark Cronin of the Huntington-based John’s Crazy Socks, spoke to members of the Port Jefferson School District Special Education PTA and students April 8 about their inspiring story and the continuing strength of individuals with differing disabilities. 

The Huntington father-son duo’s story began back in 2016 when John Cronin, a 22-year-old entrepreneur with Down syndrome, was trying to figure what he wanted to do after he graduated from Huntington High School. 

Mark Cronin, John’s father, said together they looked at job programs and a college, but the younger Cronin didn’t see a lot of choices he liked. 

“[He’s] a natural entrepreneur — I don’t see something I want to do, so I’ll create it.”

— Mark Cronin

Around that same time, the business the father worked for shut down overnight, leaving him suddenly unemployed. 

That’s when the son came up with the idea of going into business with this dad.

“[He’s] a natural entrepreneur — I don’t see something I want to do, so I’ll create it,” the father said. 

The 22-year-old entrepreneur went through a few ideas for a business until he ultimately went with crazy socks, stating that he didn’t like the selection he found at stores. 

The duo opened John’s Crazy Socks Dec. 9, 2017, and initially were only expecting a few orders. Instead, they were flooded with requests, and people enjoyed the in-person deliveries and the personal card they received with their orders.  

“We learned people wanted to buy socks, and buy them from John,” the elder Cronin said. 

From there, the company has grown to offering more than 2,300 different styles of socks, and the duo now sells internationally. Last year, they shipped over 144,000 orders, accumulated over $5.5 million in revenue and have raised $280,000 for the company’s charity partners.  

The father said their goal is to inspire, show the strengths of people with differing disabilities and their abilities.

“We are showing the brighter side of what people can do,” he said. 

Currently the business has 23 employees who have some type of disability, and according to Mark Cronin, every person working for them earns their place through hard work.

“There is no charity here, everyone earns a job,” he added. 

Over the years, the pair have advocated for jobs for individuals with disabilities. They have gone to Washington, D.C., and Capitol Hill with a special message. “People are ready and willing to work, let’s make that possible.”

The father and son were in Detroit speaking to the National Down Syndrome Society recently, and earlier last month they went on a tour of Canada with the state department. 

Karen Sullivan, president of the Port Jeff SEPTA, was glad the duo was able to come after planning this event for about a year. 

“They are employing people with disabilities. It is important for Port Jeff SEPTA, these men and women need jobs after high school and what are they going to do.”

— Karen Sullivan

“We really wanted to bring him into the village and show our students what is possible,” she said. “They are employing people with disabilities. It is important for Port Jeff SEPTA, these men and women need jobs after high school and what are they going to do.”

The duo was also presented with a proclamation from the Village of Port Jeff. 

Village trustee Stan Louks presented the Cronins with the proclamation stating that every March 21 in the village will be known as Crazy Sock Day. While he added they did not have anything specific planned for the date, they are working out some kind of celebration that could help bring the community together.

“A great deal has to go to Karen Sullivan,” the trustee said. “SEPTA was not in the village and [it was] inactive — Karen really brought it back to life.”

Sullivan said this is the organization’s one-year anniversary, and for close to 17 years Port Jeff didn’t have a special education PTA. 

“It’s very exciting to collaborate with the school district and the village,” she said “Mayor [Margot] Garant has been with us every step of the way.”

Mark Cronin and his son, John, fourth and fifth from the left, are joined by John’s Crazy Socks employees as they present a donation to a Special Olympics representative to celebrate the company’s second anniversary. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

A Huntington father-son duo show the business world how accepting people’s differences as strengths can form a road map to success.

Mark Cronin and his son, John, have found the secret ingredient to happiness is socks. The pair started John’s Crazy Socks by offering 31 wacky styles of socks in December 2016 and have since grown to become an international seller offering more than 2,300 different styles.

John and his father Mark Cronin smile. Photo from Mark Cronin

The company started with an idea from John Cronin, a 22-year-old entrepreneur diagnosed with Down syndrome, who was trying to figure out what he wanted to do with his life after graduating from Huntington High School. Together, with his father, they built a business based on social enterprise.

“We have a simple mission of spreading happiness,” the father said. “Spreading happiness comes from doing things for other people.”

The Melville-based company currently has 35 full-time employees, 18 of whom are neurotypically different, according to the owners. To keep up with holiday demand, John’s Crazy Socks hired an additional 27 seasonal workers largely from the Town of Huntington, 23 of whom have different abilities.

“If we can have 35 permanent employees, why not 350?” Mark Cronin said. “There’s 80 percent of the disabled population that is unemployed. Yet they’re ready, willing and able to work.”

Dozens of employees dressed in Santa hats helped customers pick out socks, pulled orders from the warehouse and rang up sales at the company’s 2nd anniversary and holiday pop-up shop Dec. 8.

“With all the people with disabilities, it’s not disabilities anymore — it’s abilities,” David McGowan, a retired speech pathologist from North Babylon, said. “It’s beautiful to see them working in a place like this.”

The co-owners have built an atmosphere of inclusion where each workday starts with a 15-minute briefing at 9:30 a.m. for all employees. Each Wednesday, there’s a bagel breakfast and on Fridays a staff luncheon.

“It’s not enough to just sell stuff. You have to have a mission, a purpose and give back.”

— Mark Cronin

“Our employees make our business go each and every day,” Cronin said.“ We’re out there competing with Amazon, Wal-Mart and Target; yet we beat them in completing orders and shipping. They do a great job. There is no charity here.”

Well, that’s not completely true. Since launching the business, the father-son duo has held true to their pledge to donate 5 percent of the company’s earnings to the Special Olympics as the younger Cronin has competed in the program as an athlete since age 5. The co-owners celebrated the company’s second year in business by presenting a check for $49,751.25 to a Special Olympics representative.

“It’s unheard of and it’s something all corporations should start doing,” Kim Brown, of Huntington, said. “And he’s done it since the very beginning.”

Her husband, Dave, agreed with her.

“That should be the American mission,” he said.

In addition, John’s Crazy Socks has created a line of sock designs whose sales help benefit different charities including the National Down Syndrome Society and the Autism Society of America.

“It’s not enough to just sell stuff,” Mark Cronin said. “You have to have a mission, a purpose and give back.”

Through November 2018, the co-owners said the business has donated more than $200,000 to their charity partners in a little less than two years.

John Cronin smiles with a customer during a home delivery. Photo from Mark Cronin

It’s not enough to donate money, according to the father, as they also frequently open up their warehouse to Long Island school districts and social service agencies. The pair goes out on speaking engagements to share their vision, business model and hopefully inspire others under the U.S. State Department’s speaker’s bureau.

“John and his father have made this successful because of how much they care about other people,” Patricia Klee said.

Klee, who was John’s former speech therapist at Huntington High School, said she will be bringing her current students to his company for a work-study experience this spring. The company opens its doors and provides an “invaluable” hands-on learning experience for the students.

In the coming year, the father and son have announced the company is rapidly outgrowing its Melville warehouse and is looking to expand to a new location, hopefully in Huntington or Huntington Station. They are looking for a site that will allow them to have offices, a storeroom, a studio for John’s social media videos, a storefront to sell their socks and hopefully a cafe. On their wish list is also space for an auditorium or presentation space that can be used by the community.

“They’ve always put other people first,” said Erica Murphy-Jensen, one of John’s former teachers at Huntington High School. “They’ve always taken care of others.”

John Cronin smiles with a pair of socks from John’s Crazy Socks. Photo from Mark Cronin

By Victoria Espinoza

For one father-son duo, the secret ingredient to success is socks. John Cronin, a 21-year-old Huntington resident diagnosed with Down syndrome, was trying to figure out what he wanted to do with his life after he graduated from Huntington High School, when John’s Crazy Socks was born.

The two-month-old business venture has already seen success, and Cronin and his dad Mark Cronin are continually coming up with new and unique ideas to set John’s Crazy Socks apart.

“We opened the store Dec. 9 and expected a trickle of sales,” Mark Cronin said in a phone interview. “Instead we were flooded with sales. It turns out John is a social media star.”

The co-founders shot and uploaded a variety of videos to the company’s Facebook page, starring the 21-year-old who has become the face of the business.

John and his father Mark Cronin smile. Photo from Mark Cronin

“Those first couple of videos we put up, which were spur of the moment, had 30,00 views,” the elder business partner said. “People were spreading them all around Huntington. So people flooded us and in fact on our first weekend we ran out of inventory.”

John’s Crazy Socks now ships nationally and internationally, and for local residents shipping may be the most enjoyable part of ordering from the company. Cronin hand-delivers local orders, which his dad said is an extra treat for customers.

“Word spread through social media that John would show up to a house to do a delivery, and whole families would come out to greet him and take photos,” he said.

Cronin said it’s one of his favorite parts of the business.

“I really like going to do home deliveries,” he said in a phone interview.

Aside from a friendly face with a new order of socks, patrons also receive a hand-written thank you note from Cronin as well as some Hershey kisses.

“We’ve learned a lot and saw there is a real opportunity here,” his father said. “We’re spreading happiness through socks, and it’s a way of connecting with people. The more people we can make happy the better off we will be.”

The team also gives customers two coupons with each purchase.

“We want to make it a great experience for people to buy from us,” Cronin’s father said.

John Cronin smiles with a customer during a home delivery. Photo from Mark Cronin

He said the duo has high hopes for John’s Crazy Socks, as they intend to become the world’s largest sock store, offering more sock styles and designs than anyone else. When the company started in December, they offered 31 different styles of socks. Today they offer more than 550 different styles.

It’s not just different colors and concepts customers can find at John’s Crazy Socks. They also sell socks with meaning behind them. Cronin designed an autism awareness and a Down syndrome awareness sock, as well as a breast cancer sock, and a Special Olympics sock. Cronin’s father said a portion of the proceeds from each specialized sock goes to national and local charity groups working towards finding a cure or to advocating for the groups, depending on the cause.

A blue whale sock was created for the Cold Spring Harbor Whaling Museum, and there are many other personalized socks to come.

For Cronin, socks represent self-expression.

“I really like socks,” he said. ‘They’re fun and they can fit your own personality.”

The elder Cronin said he’s enjoyed many aspects of starting the business with his son.

“I love bringing joy to people, the little things we get to do to just wow people,” he said. “We live in this increasingly complex world, and we can connect with people and say we hear you and we can make you happy, and that’s awesome. And it’s great to be able to do something with my son.”