It’s been 3 months now since we have opened our new Store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn located at: 147 Grand Street, Brooklyn, NY, 11249. It is very surreal as I now look back on this journey and I can say I am amazed at how much the business has grown since we opened our very first store in Staten Island located at: 2110 Richmond Road, Suite J, Staten Island, NY, 10306.
Our story is one to share as we started very small! We opened the Staten Island location May 1, 2019. It was by pure chance that we opened the first location, because if I hadn’t of done that 200 pair buyout with my client Jack my friend Alberto had introduced me to, I would have never had the opportunity to open up the very first location! It’s crazy how everything happens in this life, one thing done differently could have changed the entire narrative!
I will digress a little, because this part of the story is important. Sometime around January or February of 2019 my friend Alberto had put me onto a guy named Jack who was selling a lot of shoes and clothing (over 200 pairs of shoes and a lot of clothing.)
The first part of the deal was close to $12,000, I bought a lot of brand new Jordan 1’s as well as new Yeezy’s. I had spent every last dollar I had and told Jack I would come back in a few days and buy everything else. I bought around 68 pairs all in all.
I had bulk sold a large part of that lot to my buyer Dustin Billow for a $3000 profit (Dustin owns a store now as well called @SolePlyNJ.) A few days later I had contacted Jack and bought another 70+ pairs and a few days after that bought another 60+ pairs and a lot of clothing.
All in all I spent close to $22,000 and after we had broke bread, Jack had pitched me on the idea of opening up a store together. Which I was initially reluctant about because he wanted to partner up and I was against that, however after some negotiating he stated he would be open to subletting space to me.
I had told him I needed a few days to think about it before I gave him an answer.
A few days passed and I contacted him and asked if we could view the space to which he obliged. The space was perfect for what I intended to use it for. I spoke with Jack at length the next few weeks regarding the space as well as the terms and conditions.
Jack had initially told me I would need to cover half the rent ($1500) to which I had stated was too much for me at the time. I later told him I would be more comfortable paying half that ($750) to start to which he obliged. Jack advised me for $750 per month I would have roughly 200 square feet of space in the 800 square foot store. I was fine with this as I only needed a few shelves to display what little inventory I had at the time.
March of 2019 I started the buildout of the store. I had decided to paint the walls black to accentuate the product and really make it pop! The displays were to be crafted from 1” black pipe which was cut and threaded by my father and I and put together using a pipe vice and plumbing wrenches. Literally the entire buildout from start to finish was completed by my father, myself, and a few friends. No contractors were hired!!!
We opened May of 2019 with 2 small shoe displays and 2 clothes racks.
It was a dream come true opening up my first business. I would no longer have to do meetups unless it was for a bulk buyout, and it would allow me to have a meeting place for all of my clients as well as build a new client base. It was great exposure as well, because since I work full-time I was only able to promote my brand before and after work hours which served as a disadvantage for me. However, now since I had a brick and mortar store I would have 24/7 advertisement!!
It was certainly a change of pace, as I was working full-time and not used to having this type of overhead. The first couple of weeks money was so tight we didn’t even have a sign! We had to go the cheapest route and have a stencil done and have the sign spray painted because the traditional sign makers wanted $5000 for a sign which was totally out of our budget!!
A little bit of background about me, I am a health care professional by trade, and prior to opening up a store I used to sell shoes from home and online. I had started selling shoes on Facebook under my personal name: Andrew Rosenthal and then after sometime I had started an Instagram account. My first Instagram account was @scriptkicks and then finally after a few years my brother Dylan and I were brainstorming for a new name and he had came up with the name “The Sole Broker.”
Back to the business now, as aforesaid, I was not accustomed to the overhead of the business: rent, electric, gas, cameras, insurance, alarm monitoring, payroll etc.
I am glad I started small, because in the beginning it wasn’t very hard making payroll and covering expenses. The first few months the growth was tremendous. I remember people coming in to sell their entire collections and we wound up running out of space considering we only had two shelves for shoes! Initially all the shoes were sideways, but soon everything was straight across! Out of necessity I had to ask Jack for more space, however he was reluctant to do so because he was selling and leasing cars out of the store and didn’t want us to encroach on his space.
I asked every week for more space, and finally after a month of asking he granted me more space, but I had to pay another $750! For the month of August, rent was $1500 per month, however, by that time we were doing more business so it wasn’t a stretch for me. We had added another shelf which allowed us to buy more and display more shoes!
Very quickly that space had filled, and we were back to square one! I had approached Jack again asking for more space, however I had stated since I was paying half the rent I should have been entitled to half the stores space. I had asked him if I could do a window display, however he had declined.
I had figured the large glass frontage would be perfect for a window display, but Jack had other plans. Jack had stated he wanted to place a TV in the window which would serve as an advertisement for his auto leasing business. He had never got around to installing this TV, however remained adamant about me not building anything to obstruct the window. Since the lease was in his name, I had no ground to stand on...
It soon became clear that our growth was outpacing his and he realized that after a while as well and decided to relinquish the lease to the building. We signed the lease to the building in September and took over the entire space.
Immediately after we signed the lease to takeover the entire store, I built another display to fill the rest of the right side of the wall and a display in the rear of the store. Now we had plenty of shelving to display shoes and could buy a lot more pairs without worrying about displaying anything since we had the shelving to do so.
The following month, October we added the window display which was a big hit for us as it attracted many new customers to the shop!
I want to say 2019 was a great year for us, however 2020 was even better... A few months into 2020, right around February out of necessity I began looking for another location. Simply because the Staten Island store at 800 square feet was not big enough and we had outgrown the space.
I was between 2 locations in Brooklyn, and ultimately decided to go with Williamsburg. I decided to put my second store in Brooklyn for a few reasons... First and foremost, Manhattan was over saturated with stores: Round Two, Flight Club, Stadium Goods, Origins NYC, Solestage, Rare Pair, Unique Hype, Urban Necessities, etc... I didn’t want to be in competition with everyone and their mother, so I decided to go to Brooklyn as it is close in proximity to Manhattan, Queens, Long Island and Long Island City, Bronx,
In February of 2020, we were hit the ground running in Williamsburg looking for a prospective location for our second store. We found many vacancies within the area and worked with a few brokers to show us potential spaces.
While looking on Grand street for potential spaces, I stumbled upon a store called “Fools Gold.” The turntables in the window caught my eye so decided to go into the store to check it out and see what it was about.
The store was very quiet and looked very empty for what seemed to be a retail shop. After perusing the store I had put two and two together and realized it was a creative space for music and also a retail shop which had made sense considering the visible turntables and vinyl records which were displayed in a milk crate on the floor. I had wound up buying one of their crewnecks to show support and struck a conversation with the sales associate.
I had told the sales associate a little bit about myself and that I was in the area scouting commercial space for my second store in Williamsburg. It was then the sales associate told me they were looking to move, however, they would need find someone to take over the space before doing so. I had asked if I could have a tour of the space to which the sales associate obliged.
The space seemed convoluted at first sight. The retail space in the front was much smaller than the space in the back. The store was laid out as follows: 14 foot of glass frontage with a door in the middle of the store to enter the shop. Upon entering the shop there were 3 plexi-glass entryways which divided the front end of the store into 3 parts which all had different merchandise and displays throughout each entryway. (The front end of the store was about 30 feet long by 14 feet wide.) When walking past the last entry way there was a gold mirror with a door which lead to the rear of the space. When walking through the door there was a spiral staircase to the left which lead to the basement and the storage rooms. Past that area was another doorway which lead to another large room. (The rear end of the store was about 30 feet long by 20 feet wide.) The bathroom and break area was to the right and a private office to the left with glass sliding doors. The back room was well lit with a sky light and windows as well as tall ceilings. Looking at this space I envisioned our next store being here with some minor alterations. The location was prime as it was in the heart of Williamsburg, between Bedford Avenue and Berry Street and situated across the street from Supreme Brooklyn!
Fast forward 6 months after long negotiations finally resulting in us securing the aforementioned space; we start the buildout in July of 2020.
Our idea was to knock down the non-load bearing walls to create an open floor plan. The flooring was replaced to create a clean aesthetic. Furthermore, the same displays pictured at the Staten Island store which span from floor to ceiling were incorporated into this store for continuity purposes. In the rear, we fabricated a wrap around clothes line to display our curated collection of Supreme items.
The buildout was a giant undertaking compared to the turn key operation of Staten Island, however it was perfectly executed considering we had experience going through the first stores buildout and also considering the fact that myself and my father are handy and are also general contractors.
We started the buildout in August of 2020 and had everything completed by October 15th, 2020 which was opening day for us!
Now, although business has slowed due to COVID, we look ahead to brighter days. Once we can get though COVID we know business will be back to normal and we can focus on growing and scaling operations.
Our work ethic is unparalleled, we always strive for greatness and are never complacent. I inspire my staff to be that way and lead by example.
What are our future plans? We plan on having a Sole Broker in each of the 5 boroughs. We would like to become a household name in New York and will continue working hard to achieve that goal. We like being the underdog because no one pays attention to the underdog and that’s where we like to be.
Mark my words by next year we will have our next store opened!
I wanted to personally thank my father, brother, friends, family, as well as my staff for making this possible. We all have worked very hard for this to come to fruition!
The Sole Broker