Growing sneaker-collecting community helps keep Edmonton business alive

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WATCH ABOVE: A growing interest in sneaker collecting has helped keep an Edmonton business alive during the pandemic. As Breanna Karstens-Smith explains, it’s expected the industry could be worth more than $95 billion by 2025 – Jan 2, 2021

Forget about stamps, coins and even vintage wine, the growing trend in collecting has a lot of sole.

Grand View Research Inc. projects the sneaker industry could be worth $95.14 billion by 2025.

A big reason for that is the booming collecting culture, especially with teens.

“Kids treat them as stocks now,” Edmonton collector Jensen Joe told Global News.

But the investment isn’t how all collections begin. For many, they started buying shoes to be like Mike.

“Definitely nostalgia for me. Because you were able to buy the shoes that you watched Michael Jordan play in back in those days,” said Joe.

He and Francisco Rodas help run the Edmonton Sneakerheads Facebook page. With more than 4,500 members, it’s a place for people to buy and sell rare finds while also asking others for help in ensuring pairs they’re looking to purchase are legit and not coming from the growing fraudulent market.

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Joe and Rodas say the recent Netflix documentary “The Last Dance” about Jordan’s time in the NBA has inspired a lot of people to start their own sneaker collections.

And while Edmonton’s sneakerheads group isn’t quite in step with others in the United States, it does have its own foothold.

“I feel as though it’s smaller, but I feel like the community sense is stronger,” explained Rodas.

Read more: WATCH: ‘Chaotic’ Adidas sneaker release turns violent in Vancouver

Foosh on Whyte Avenue has been part of that community for 21 years.

Store owner Justin Der says the goal has always been to provide Edmontonians with something not available elsewhere in the city.

Der knows exactly what that is. At one point, he personally owned more than 1,000 pairs.

“I was wearing artwork on my feet,” he said.

Actually wearing the sneakers is a personal decision for each collector.

“What I would used to do is I would buy two or three pairs, I’d wear one pair and then I would ice (preserve) the second and third pair just to kind of have it,” Der explained.

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He pointed to the teal and black Nike Jordans he was wearing and estimated they could be resold for $3,000. This reporter was sporting a dirty pair of $50 white Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars.

Foosh store owner Justin Der inside the sneaker and streetware store on 82 Avenue and 105 Street in Edmonton, Alta. Global News

Der said it’s his fellow collectors keeping Foosh running when his other businesses are struggling.

As owner of The Common, 9910 and Grandin Fish and Chips, Der noticed how susceptible his restaurants were to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Foosh was able to adapt to serve sneakerheads even when the physical store had to close.

“I’m just glad we’re still here. And I’m glad we’re, you know, we’re able to facilitate the sneaker community here. Here in Edmonton and in Alberta.”

Read more: New Air Jordan 11 Concord sneakers hit shelves in Calgary

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There have been challenges, though. Large conventions where collectors typically score limited releases have been cancelled. And usually when brands release rare pairs, customers line up outside of Foosh for hours to get their foot in the door.

“Having the lineups, that allows us to interact with the people that are buying the shoes,” lamented Foosh manager and Buyer Mac Doucette.

“And that’s something that we’re passionate about. Obviously the shoes themselves, but it’s really nice to talk to somebody about the product and maybe learn about their history collecting and what got them into it.”

Shoes inside Foosh on 82 Avenue and 105 Street in Edmonton, Alta. Global News

As a teacher, Rodas uses his passion as a bit of a history and art lesson for his students who are well aware their teacher customizes sneakers.

“They’re always asking me like, ‘When can you paint my shoes next?’ Or ‘Can you?’ And I said, ‘Well, if you do really good in the semester or in this grade, then maybe I might. We may work out something.’ To motivate them.”

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For anyone motivated to become a sneakerhead, collectors say just like wine, vintage is better.

“Do your research. I mean, there’s so many ways you can get to know the history behind the designs,” according to Joe.

It’s a hobby that you can put your own stamp on that could bring in a lot of coin.

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