When Zachary Rubin left his job as a commodity trader two years ago to start Upper 90 Soccer + Sport, it was a decision to get back to his roots.
Rubin grew up playing soccer on the Upper West Side. Back then, he and his friends settled for any patch of grass in Riverside Park that was large enough to kick around a soccer ball. When the West Side Soccer League was launched, offering the first opportunity for organized soccer in the neighborhood, Rubin, then 6, was part of its inaugural season. His passion for the sport remained with him through high school and took him to Colorado, where he played for the Colorado College men’s soccer team before returning to New York.
That same soccer league that consisted of only a handful of teams when Rubin joined more than 20 years ago now offers services to 4,000-plus children and 8,000 parent volunteers.
Seeing this burgeoning soccer community, Rubin and his business partners, Wilson Edigio and Doug Gatanis, decided to open their sporting goods on West 94th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, just blocks from where Rubin grew up on West 89th Street.
“There’s been a need for a sports store on the Upper West Side, specifically a soccer store for years,” Rubin said. “It’s just never been met. People are always running all over the city to find very simple items that bringing them to the Upper West Side could be both a service to the community and successful business-wise. We’re filling a huge need. Soccer’s really taken hold up here.”
Upper 90 had its grand opening on Sept. 10. Though the business is still new, support from shoppers and the neighborhood has been tremendous, Rubin said. If growth continues as expected, Rubin plans to open two more stores downtown and in Brooklyn.
Around the same time that Rubin and Edigio began working on Upper 90, they decided to collaborate on another new business, Brazilian Touch Soccer. The goal is to bring American high school and college teams to Brazil to train with professional players and coaches. Wanting to offer the same kind of benefits to local soccer players, they also created Brazilian Touch Soccer School, which incorporates the coaching methods they learned in Brazil into their Upper West Side program.
“Very few programs exist that use real coaching methods to develop fundamentals at a very young age,” Rubin said. “I coach premiere travel for the Manhattan Soccer Club, and seeing the players come up who, at age 11, have never really been coached properly, it necessitates better programs for younger ages.”
For Rubin, deciding to start his new ventures on the West Side was about more than just business. Through his ties to the soccer community as a player, coach and entrepreneur, he’s witnessed how soccer works as a vehicle for positive change in the lives of city kids. Part of how he measures his professional success is in his ability to contribute to the two communities he feels close ties to: the Upper West Side and soccer.
“We’re really trying to support various endeavors and parts of the community,” Rubin said. “We’re trying to run a business and be successful from that end, but we’re also trying to create a place there that the community will rally around and support for years to come.”
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