Good Evening Friends and Family,
As our two year anniversary approaches this May, I look back on my path of opening two stores and everything in between. The COVID-19 pandemic has given me perspective on what it actually takes to run two businesses as well as the importance of being able to pivot when the going gets tough in order to survive.
I have changed so many processes recently out of necessity in order to survive within this economic climate. I have been forced to lower my margins in order to turn over product more quickly which is something I never fathomed doing. Furthermore, I find myself resorting back to old ways of conducting business because out of the box thinking was needed to generate business.
Prior to owning a store, I used to source my inventory on: Craigslist, Instagram, Facebook Groups, and Facebook Marketplace, as well as other resources. I have found that being a store owner has spoiled me with regard to intake of product. When you own a store, most of your product walks right into the shop. Now however, due to COVID, I am now finding myself going back to my old ways of sourcing product/s. It has been slow, but I have been getting some pretty decent deals...
I have realized I lost touch with how I used to do things. Perhaps it's me making excuses, but I think a lot of it has to do with me being so inundated with the day to day operations of the business. I am realizing it is of utmost importance for me to get back to the way I used to do things.
In the past, I was the "go to" guy for many of my clients as I got my hands on all of the rare and most sought after sneakers; I need to get back to this... In this industry, we know everyone is looking for the latest and greatest items to release; and if your store doesn't have those items, the people will not come. The old saying goes, "If you build it they will come." However, in this industry I feel that is not sufficient. I need to provide an experience for my customer base and differentiate my store from all of the other stores out there as countless new shops are popping up as the sneaker market continues to grow at a rapid pace.
I find myself consuming a lot of content to provide insight on ways to differentiate myself from the droves of stores out there and elevate my business. I was recently listening to a Complex podcast in which hosts: Joe La Puma, Brendan Dunne and Matt Welty talk with David Ortiz Co-Founder of sneaker boutique Dave's Quality Meats about his store, sneaker culture, and his Air Max 90 "Bacon" release. I love these sort of conversations, as the hosts take a retrospective look on the sneaker community during the early 2000's. Back during those times, the sneaker community wasn't as large as it was now and many things were certainly different. However, certain things remain constant such as premier stores having certain elements of design and style which set themselves apart from the dull and boring sneaker stores out there.
During the interview, Dave was speaking about the motif of his store, and how it was modeled in the likeness of a butcher shop. I think about the store design, and I would say it is certainly attention grabbing. The store boasted: faux-meat hanging from hooks in the store front window, a meat fridge containing sneakers and apparel, as a wide variety of skate decks and accessories; certainly a design ahead of it's time.
Within my own shop, I try to incorporate contemporary art such as: KAWS, Ron English, Graffiti Artists, and even hang skateboard decks as wall art. I feel elements like this really set my store apart from the others which I believe are cookie-cutter in design and very derivative. I try to keep my store aesthetic clean-cut and modern. All of the sneaker and clothing displays are made with threaded black iron pipe and painted wood which makes the product really pop and looks so much better compared to the slat-board and plastic inserts many shop owners use. I am always striving to make things better within my store, and I have really fallen down the rabbit hole, as the project never really ends as the store is constantly evolving. I digress!!
I would also recommend Jeff Staples, "Business of Hype" podcast which I was binging prior to and during the pandemic. I recently found myself messaging Jeff on Instagram, telling him I am a huge fan and avid listener of his podcast, and even inquired about being a guest on the podcast. However, I think I was certainly reaching as I am a newbie on the scene and have yet to earn my stripes. I had pitched him on the idea of perhaps making an episode in which up and coming entrepreneurs could share their stories as well as maybe ask questions as Jeff is certainly esteemed within the community and highly regarded as an "OG." However, In retrospect I think my approach was too salesman like and I was left on "Seen." Maybe one day my dream will become a reality; who knows!
I respect being left on seen as Jeff wants to uphold the prestige of his platform and I consider myself a nobody compared to the great creatives he has as guests on his podcast. I totally miss listening to his podcasts because they have provided me so much insight into what it takes to be successful. Some of my favorites he has interviewed are: Hommyo Hidefumi of Atmos, Hiroshi Fujiwara of Fragment, Errolson Hugh of Acronym, Jaysse Lopez of Urban Necessities, Jerry Lorenzo of Fear of God, Rob Christofaro and Treis Hill of Alife, Tremaine Emory of Denim Tears, and Sarah Andelman of Colette. The insight the aforesaid creatives have given me has provided wind in my sails and the fuel to keep on pursing my dreams.
My next plan is to open a store in Manhattan by 2022. I have toyed with the idea of opening a store in Manhattan since we opened our Williamsburg store across the street from Supreme in October of 2020. I currently have my eye on a few locations, however, I cannot divulge any further information as negotiations have ensued. I can say for now that the location is prime and will be our premier location. My short-term goal is to open a store in Manhattan by next year, and my long term goal is to have a Sole Broker in every borough within New York by 2025.
I know the goal is a lofty one, however, looking back on how far we have come since May of 2019; having opened two stores in a two year span I feel as if the goal is realistic and achievable.
I wanted to end with this thought: Retrospection is important, because as one moves forward in their life, they must not forget their past and what steps they took to get to where they are now.
The Sole Broker