A 16-year-old sneaker-loving teen is using the footwear to get a different kind of kick — he's opened a pawnshop that uses high-end athletic shoes as collateral.
Chase Reed and his father, Troy Reed, opened Sneaker Pawn on Lenox Avenue in Harlem looking to capitalize on America's multibillion-dollar athletic footwear market and the high prices sneakers can get being re-sold.
The idea started close to home, when Chase would ask his father to borrow money after Reed had spent a few hundred dollars on sneakers for his son. Reed would hold onto a pair of his son's shoes until he had gotten his money back.
"My son said, 'Dad, you're actually kind of making me pawn you my sneakers,'" Reed said during a recent interview at the store. "Once he said that, a light bulb went off."
He told his son, "You don't have no money, but you got all these sneakers. Imagine how many other kids got all these sneakers and probably need cash."
The duo decided to renovate the space in Harlem, where they had been living before moving elsewhere, into a retail location. And to pay for it all, Chase sold his own collection, bringing in about $30,000.
"My father told me, certain things you have to sacrifice," Chase said.
Basketball sneakers can sell and re-sell for hundreds of dollars, depending on the shoe model, how limited the production run was, and how easy it is to find a pair in good condition. Sneaker Pawn carries shoes with price tags of more than $1,000.
The shop, which opened about six months ago, offers different options. People looking to just unload their sneakers — specifically basketball shoes — can offer them to the Reeds to be bought outright, or on a consignment agreement which nets the Reeds 20 percent of the final sale price. Those looking to pawn their sneakers have two months to redeem them for the amount of money the Reeds forwarded them plus a storage fee. Shoes that are being pawned are held in storage and not displayed, until the owner either gets them back or gives them up.
Chase, as the sneaker aficionado, has the final say on whether they buy a certain pair from someone, and what prices they sell the shoes at. He also customizes sneakers with his own art. Since he's still in high school, his father handles the running of the store during the weekdays.
Fourteen-year-old Harlem resident Chaise Mack shelled out a couple of hundred dollars for a pair of Air Jordan sneakers released in 2012 that sell online for at least twice the price that he paid.
The store, he said, "is amazing. You can't really find sneakers like this downtown. Most of the sneakers here are not in retail."
It's been a learning experience for Chase, who's had to put aside the rebuilding of his own collection.
"Sadly there are a lot of size 14s that come through the store," he said. "The nicest sneakers on Earth that come through the store and the first thing I do is sell them."
He's philosophical about it. I "can't let my sneaker high get in the way of me making money, me being a businessman," he said.