The Story Behind the Deal: Urban Necessities Incredible Rise
Over the last decade, streetwear and sneakers dominated the world of fashion. Whether it’s a Jordan x Off-White collaboration making
Over the last decade, streetwear and sneakers dominated the world of fashion.
Whether it’s a Jordan x Off-White collaboration making a fashion show debut, or the staggering price tag for the GRAMMY-worn sample of Kanye West’s Nike Air Yeezy 1 at Sotheby’s, collecting sneakers became—as much as wearing them—a pursuit of both passion and commerce.
For those who have mastered the art, there’s a lucrative and accessible business model in the resale game.
The Journey of a Sneakerhead
My sneaker journey began in 1998, staring at an Michael Jordan poster while playing Mortal Kombat II, surrounded by Nike Air Jordan boxes. I was too young to understand the hype at 12 years old. Now there are kids younger than me at that age, reselling sneakers at places such as Sneakercon, on Facebook Groups or to consignment shops. The sneaker reselling business is booming. But the question begs to be asked—is it for the love of sneakers, or is it for the love of the money?
Fast forward to 2005, staring at two Undefeated Jordan 4’s not knowing years later they would be worth $18,000 each. It wasn’t until I had access to the Adidas Kanye West Yeezy V2s that I understood the hype around sneakers. Seeing my friends with fake sneakers was the start of my bulk sneaker purchase. Knowing that a friend was scammed buying fake Yeezys really bothered me.
A friend of mine, Brandon Carroll, was always into sneakers. Air Jordans, Nike SBs, Yeezy 1 and V2’s. He was able to guide me through the process. Being able to buy 20 pairs of Adidas Yeezy 350 V2s at a time to hold and sell was interesting. Was I into sneakers? Not really, I’m happy with a pair of Vans. But I saw how easy it was to move them. I always wore one pair and kept the other, brand new, never worn. I did not like people getting scammed, so I just had them for people that wanted them. Until I was almost stuck with 18 pairs of Yeezy 350 V2 “Triple White” sneakers due to Kanye’s decision to rerelease them on September 28 2018.
By that point, I was over it. I had a good career and was busy and never really wore sneakers. During this time, I learned about the close bond of the sneaker community. How some literally wait in lines just to have a shoe to then turn around and resell for profit. And how some are literally willing to throw fists to purchase a sneaker. And I visited some cool stores along the way. My favorite was being able to get a glimpse of Dre Ljustina’s Project Blitz warehouse in Los Angeles.
Urban Necessities Comes to Las Vegas
During this time, husband and wife duo Jaysse and Joanie Lopez, started picking up hype and respect for their business Urban Necessities, which has garnered more $100 million in sales since it started in 2014. From their collaboration inside American Eagle in New York, to the building of an empire in Las Vegas, their sneaker store is somewhat of a landmark for sneakerheads. CELEB visits the new Urban Necessities store inside The Forum Shops at Caesars to speak with the Lopezes about how they got their start, their favorite sneakers, the sneaker culture and community and what it means to be an entrepreneur in this very fickle industry.
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CELEB: How did the opportunity for the new store come about?
Jaysse: Right at the start of COVID, Simon reached out and asked us what the Urban Necessities retail floor would look like in The Forum Shops, and we both told them we wanted to go in a very different direction than what they’re used to seeing.
CELEB: What did you think when you first saw the space?
Jaysse: That would probably hold this over for a few months. And it’s probably not enough space.
Joanie: I actually wasn’t even with him when he first walked the space with management. I was tied up with something else that day. But the funny thing is, early on, when Jay and I were dating, and selling shoes out of the trunk of our car, we used to pass by this space. And I would be like, ‘well let me run in GAP real quick and see what’s in there.’ And he was telling me you’re not going in there. You’re not about that life anymore. We don’t wear GAP. I never walked into the store. So when he took the meeting with management to walk this space, Jay comes home and says ‘I just saw the most incredible space that we can do all kinds of crazy things in’ and his mind is going. And so I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, was it?’ He’s like ‘you remember the old GAP.’ Yeah. And actually, no, ‘I never walked in it, you never let me walk in it.’ I never realized until later that it had two stories. It’s really an incredible spot.
CELEB: It’s one thing to be married, but how did you guys decide to go into business together?
Joanie: It was kind of a fluke.
Jaysse: I think looking back at that time, it was just Joanie being Joanie and, and caring and, and just trying to be that cheerleader, the support system For me to try something that I had never done before. You know, as we started doing this, we just went everywhere together. I don’t think we really planned this from the beginning.
Joanie: We didn’t even think it was a business.
Jaysse: Joanie kept saying she wanted me to open a store. And I I kept saying I wasn’t ready. She saw something in me that I didn’t even see in myself.
Joanie: But if you rewind a little bit, even when we were selling shoes out of the trunk of our car, it started out—we were dating, we were both working, making good money, but kind of miserable. We would even joke with each other, I can’t wait to take a pay cut, and have a real life again. We were devoting so much of our time to somebody else’s business.
Jaysse: Well that wasn’t me, I was always unemployed.
Joanie: He ended up losing his job. And it was basically me. He’s said, “let me just sell some shoes until you know, somebody hits me back up from all the resumes I’ve been sending out.” We were at a doctor’s office because he got sick from the stress triggered from his old job. And I was in the waiting room and he texted me a picture of the Nike Mens Barkley Posite Max All Star. He said, ‘I want to get these.’ And I’m like, ‘you just lost a job, you want to buy a sneaker?’ So our plan was to go to Nike, buy four pairs of shoes, and he was going to sell the three other ones. So essentially, he would keep his and it was free. But it ended up being I think 19 pairs, and he sold all but one by the early afternoon. And so instead of just getting his for free, he turned a profit and I was like, well, you’re onto something and so it just kind of snowballed from there.
CELEB: What was the winning formula?
Joanie: We definitely didn’t have a formula to start with. We did really well that one weekend, but then it was followed with a lot of Ls [losses in the sneaker world when you don’t get a drop that’s an L]. I think it was a lot of persistence and like really, networking and building a name and reputation and learning along the way. Because to be quite honest, we didn’t know exactly what to get, like we just knew what we liked.. So in talking with other people and networking and all that, we started to gain a better understanding of what everybody else wanted and provide that service.
CELEB: And what were your careers before?
Jaysse: I worked retail. I’ve done pretty much everything. I started working when I was 14.
Joanie: I was working as a negotiator for Wells Fargo.
CELEB: How did you fund the business? Did you guys get you know, get an investor? Did you take a loan?
Jaysse: We caught a little bit of a break at the beginning and found a spot that was pretty janky.
Joanie: It was basically the dumpiest mall in Vegas.
Jaysse: Small in the city we opened up in a hallway that had been closed for five years, the store has been closed for seven years in a hallway that we didn’t have any neighbors for the first six months or Our initial builder was 2400 bucks. I was on a credit card, myself pretty much at the beginning. And the day that I signed the lease I had $40 to my name.
CELEB: Amazing. What an incredible story that is. Would you say shoes are your passion or are you just good at it? You know, you don’t necessarily have to be good at your passion or have a passion for what you’re good at. But do those things work hand in hand for you?
Joanie: I don’t think shoes are our passion really… like we love shoes. But I think our real passion is people.
Jaysse: You know, I like to bring up a lot of sports references. I bring up a lot of like athletes that people look up to or respect. And last night as an example, I brought up Kobe Bryant to somebody. I asked him who his favorite player was? and he told me Kobe Bryant. I asked them how many years did he think Kobe played? Well Kobe played like 14 years or something like that in the league. And then he played four years in high school. And then he played, you know, pretty much played since the age of three. So Kobe retired in his mid thirties So it was almost thirty years playing basketball. The question I asked the young man that I asked who his favorite player was, was at what point did you ignite Kobe’s greatness: When he came into the league? When he won his first championship? When Shaq got traded? or when Kobe got hurt? And you know Kobe’s career was coming to an end. It got him thinking. He brought up the point of when he thought he started paying attention to him. And I kind of brought it back to our story and said, look how long it took before all these people actually are at least looking in our direction and acknowledging our work. We’re eight years into this. Seven days a week 15 to 16 hour days. So I think that’s kind of how we got to where we’re at. We’re just willing to do the work and then focus on why no one is paying attention.
CELEB: And especially when there’s been so much conversation about the future of retail, right? I mean, and you just took one of the biggest spaces in Vegas.
Jaysse: I think retail will forever be good. As long as people find creative ways to make it an experience. If you don’t do that, it’s not worth spending your money. And the consumers become educated enough to understand that there’s gotta be value there. And all these brands have been getting slapped for not doing anything for experience for a really long time.
CELEB: How do you train people to know what I mean? Obviously the sneaker culture is such an art form. It’s just you know how to set a complete, you know catapulting trajectory over the last 10-20 years. How do you train your people? How do you teach them in your way? What are some of the fundamentals of you that you base your training off of?
Jaysse: I think the focus is more on treating our guests and each other like family we haven’t seen in a while. If you focus on the experience, or the interaction being as one, like a family member you haven’t seen in a while, chances are you’re going to smile more, you’re going to feel more genuine, right? it’s going to be easier to break those barriers that are there when you first come in, and that’s that assumption that the sales reps trying to take you for a ride not and then I tried to get my management to be more like coaches as far as guys that are driving sales, and just making sure we’re being efficient.
CELEB: Is the love of sneaker collecting gone in general or is it just about hustling deals now?
Joanie: I think the passion is still there.
Jaysse: And I think it’s more visible than ever. Everyday there’s a new sneaker head coming in the world, all walks of life. And, and the concept of supply and demand, where people could say I have something that most people don’t, we’ll always reign supreme. I think that’s a very contagious emotion. And once you feel it once, it only gets more and more serious.
CELEB: There has always been an issue with fake sneakers in the industry, and with popularity comes replicas. Have you ever purchased a fake sneaker and what safeguards do you have in place against that?
Jaysse: If you do something long enough, you’re not gonna bet 1000? That is what helped us grow, even though some of our mistakes at times have been visible, is that we didn’t run from them, we didn’t try to hide them under a rug, or sweep them under a rug, per se, we acknowledged it. We’ve never really sold one, or have one that’s gone out the door. Knowingly. And in instances where we’ve made the mistakes we’ve corrected, and they’re great teaching tools. You know, it’s inevitable with this type of volume. It’s something that unfortunately, you’re always going to have people that are going to want to cut a corner and try to take advantage and get over. But, we try not to focus so much on the negative. We have great staff that’s always learning and it’s fun teaching.
CELEB: When you get into recognizing counterfeits I am sure some people find it really thrilling. Especially ones that are really really good. Now Sotheby’s has sneaker auctions that resemble art collecting. What are some of your thoughts on that? Do you trip out when you see those auctions at that level?
Jaysse: I think it’s bringing a different set of eyes. I try to be very political with some of my comments. I get it, I understand it, I see the benefit, but I also see the downside to it. When someone’s buying a shoe for, you know, 100 times 1000 times more than what it really goes for because it’s to buy a brand but you’re not just buying a product, you’re buying the brand. So, I think it’s great. It’s getting scaled out even at a rate that even I don’t understand. But I have a lot of respect for what they’re doing. But I also don’t understand a lot of what they’re doing.
CELEB: Which one of your industry peers do you most look up to? Who’s your mentor in the industry?
Jaysse: I mean, there’s collectors, there’s business owners, there’s businesses, there’s creators, there’s so many. There’s motivation and inspiration, in literally everything I look at. You know, Kanye, what he’s shown from a business standpoint: he’s shown us, it’s all possible to scale it at numbers that you can’t even fathom.
Joanie: It’s not even just about scaling. It’s really about taking a risk on something that a lot of people think is crazy and making fun of, and then making it your signature.
CELEB: What’s been your most memorable moment over the last eight years?
Jaysse: Helping someone get a heart transplant.
Joanie: It was really early on in our business. We had met a man who needed help. We had a GoFundMe that really wasn’t generating anything. I think he had just a few $100 there. And that really upset Jay, to know that this guy had all these friends and nobody was really showing up for him. He was really an acquaintance at the time. But because we were so early on our new business, we weren’t really profiting much. We risked everything.
Jaysse: I took the $6,000 that we had to our name and bought two tickets to Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao fight and raffled them off, and got on the news the night before. Generated our $6,000 back plus $15,000. And the guy gets into the program and eventually gets a heart transplant. That’s probably one of the first moments that I thought, ‘Man, if we could go this hard for someone or something and get this type of support to execute? We’ll forever be good.’
Joanie: I think in that situation, what really stood out to me was Jay had figured out a way to get a little bit of press about what he was trying to do. And the next morning one of the first people who came into our store was an older couple who clearly was not into sneakers. They were walking in and they asked, ‘is this Urban Necessities?’ And he said, ‘Yeah,’ they put some money on our counter and said, this is for what we saw last night. And so what that told me was—there’s a lot of really cool things that were like that around us, we’ve got all these sneakers on the wall. Now, like all these people that are visiting our store, but like, it really told me that we had a voice. And it wasn’t just within our own community, per se.
CELEB: Do you know where that guy is now?
Jaysse: He’s in Vegas still alive. It’s cool to have somebody that you have invested time, energy or effort into and some of them even become lifelong friends from that moment. It’s the inspiration, the motivation or the life changing situations you create through these doors. Hearing people tell you, ‘hey, you caused this to happen,’ or ‘you changed this outlook.’ We’re more in the business of that than selling sneakers.
CELEB: What was the most expensive shoe you ever sold?
Jaysse: We’ve sold shoes for $30,000, $40,000, $50,000. The auto-lacing Max. We’ve had transactions nearing almost $200,000. One transaction for multiple shoes. We cater to all walks of life, but the guy or girl who can justify that type of expense, they’re in a position where that’s not a risk. Very seldomly do we get the guy spending five figures or six figures on transactions who can’t afford it—so it’s different than the kid that’s excited about buying a $200 shoe.
Joanie: More exciting for us is when we see a kid that puts together all the money they have on their own.
CELEB: In your personal collections, what’s the one shoe that you would keep if you had to give them all up?
Joanie: The ones that I got married in.
Jaysse: They don’t even fit either of us.
Joanie: We got married in Knicks Jordan 1s.
Jaysse: The ones we wanted were more expensive in our actual sizes.
Joanie: We got them too big.
Joanie: We both look like we look like Ronald McDonald in orange and blue sneakers getting married.