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Friday, Feb 3, 2023
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Taking His Shot

It’s not uncommon to find a long line of sneaker fans stretched outside a local Footlocker on the weekends anxious for the doors to open. Why? Because they are sneaker junkies desperate to get their hands on the latest pairs of Nikes or Air Jordan’s– and they’ll wait for hours, even days, to get them. It was the same for Sherman Oaks resident Greg Nomura. But unlike many others, he wasn’t waiting in line to purchase the latest sneakers for his personal collection; he was waiting to buy them, mark up the price and then resell them. Nomura did this informally for several years, selling online, but recently he decided to open YooNek LA, a Studio City store (pronounced unique.) “I’ve always been a Jordan guy and I’ve been buying Jordans since they first released in the 80s,” said Nomura, 36. “So many people do this as a hobby, and then some people like me go full force with it.” The store, located beneath the popular Chinese cuisine restaurant Chin Chin, is stocked with more than 200 pairs of sneakers, offering several in multiple sizes. The shoes have sold out of retail stores and are only available in similar resale shops or perhaps online with other resellers. One of the most sought after pair of sneakers Nomura is working to sell is the Jordan One Jeter Re2spect, which retailed for $160 and Nomura won’t sell for less than $650. The shoes were released in October in honor of retiring New York Yankee Derek Jeter. The majority of the shoes sold at YooNek are from Nomura’s personal collection. To bulk up his stock, he hires young men to stand in line at retailers throughout Los Angeles on release days, purchasing 10 to 15 pairs of the same shoe. Nomura will pay each guy $25 to $75, depending on the profit he plans to make. He also sells shoes on consignment for a 12 percent cut. In addition, the shop features t-shirts, hats and other urban apparel acquired wholesale, such as Ssur, Caviar Cartel and Hall of Fame LTD. Shopper Eddie Bromberg, 43, stumbled upon YooNek one evening while on his way to dinner and was impressed with the store. An avid buyer of sneakers, Bromberg is familiar with the resale market and said that Nomura’s shop is something sneaker-lovers can appreciate. “He’s really passionate and you can see that when you walk in, this is a collection, a curated collection. This isn’t just a bunch of sneakers up on the wall,” Bromberg said. “He knows everything about every pair. He can tell you where it came from, where it happened, why it happened, so it’s not like you’re just buying a pair of kicks.” Bromberg didn’t get sneakers but did purchase a SLVDR jacket and a Ssur sweater that evening. The resale market Nomura is not the first sneaker fanatic to set up a resale shop in Los Angeles. The area is already home to two popular sneaker consignment shops, Flight Club in the Fairfax District and Rif LA in Little Tokyo, both of which also sell online. Josh Luber is an IBM strategy consultant who on the side operates campless.com, a Philadelphia-based website that is a price guide for secondary market sneakers, not unlike the Kelley Blue Book for used cars. Luber, who is a sneaker fan with nearly 200 pairs of shoes in his basement, pegs the secondary sneaker market at $300 million. He said Nike Inc. drives the market with the “limited sneaker” Air Jordan, which often sells out of retail within seconds of release. “$300 million is the profit taken away by the reseller in this industry,” Luber said. “And (Nike doesn’t) care because it’s a marketing expense. They are happy to let that money fall into the hands of their passionate consumers as a way to continue the hype and the marketing.” He said the company builds anticipation among consumers for the newest shoes by letting fans know months in advance when it will hit stores. The market is now getting geared up for the December release of the Jordan 11 Retro Legend Blues and the Air Jordan 4LAB1, which will cost $130 and $185 respectively. These prices are expected to double on the secondary market. Nomura, a New York City native, moved to Los Angeles five years ago after working as a doorman on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Currently, Nomura said he works as an urban music producer, in addition to operating YooNek. He had been reselling sneakers on eBay, Craigslist and at times even out of his trunk for more than four years before opening his shop in September. On average, Nomura estimates he pockets a $75 to $100 profit on each sale, but he’s made as much as $600 at times for really rare or in-demand shoes. Nonetheless, the store has yet to break even. Nomura figures he’s invested $75,000 of his personal money and loans into opening the shop, and is still using personal funds to keep the business running. “I like when people come into the store and I can talk to them about a sneaker,” he said. “I am a genuine sneaker lover, so much so that when I sell sneakers sometimes it hurts to say goodbye.”

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