While streetwear and sneakers are indebted to Black culture, those with the greatest financial stake in both all too frequently aren’t Black. But a growing array of stores in the U.S. are owned by Black people. Here are some of the best.Less
Burn Rubber, a Michigan mainstay, built a name for itself over the years through collaborations with the likes of New Balance, Fila, Reebok, and more, along with an Eminem-produced reality show highlighting the shop. The shelves at Roland “Ro Spit” Coit’s shop stay stocked with the essentials: Air Force 1s, Adidas Top Tens, Converse collabs, and Saucony runners, to list a few. For added shopping convenience, it offers a “fast shoes” walk-up window.
Leaders has stood at the epicenter of Chicago’s streetwear, hip-hop, and creative scenes since it opened in 2002. Not only does the store carry the latest sneakers, but its branded apparel makes it a one-stop shop for a complete fit. Beyond the sneakers and gear, owner Corey Gilkey has long mentored creatives in the city, many of whom got their start working on the store’s retail floor. Pay homage by spending a few dollars to make sure he and Leaders stick around to teach future generations.
A Ma Maniére stands as the crown jewel in James Whitner’s footwear conglomerate. The high-end experience starts with the brands in stock—ranging from Saint Laurent and Moncler to Off-White and Fear of God, alongside Nike, Jordan, Adidas, etc.—but it doesn’t end there. A Ma Maniere offers by-appointment shopping options; its Houston shop includes a restaurant; and its Washington, D.C., door has a hotel. Whitner works hard to heighten the retail experience in a world of online window shopping.
Sole Classics stocks up on Asics, Nike, New Balance, and more. The store was vandalized in the protests over the killing of George Floyd, but owner Dionte Johnson didn’t complain. Instead, he suggested others examine why people rioted. “The reason why I want to see more Black businesses survive and flourish and be successful is because we need more examples [of success] in our community beyond entertainment,” he told ‘Columbus CEO.’
Another one of James Whitner’s stores, Prosper calls Jersey City home. The showroom houses an array of Adidas, Jordan, and Nike products, as well as a range of store-branded apparel. More importantly, Prosper advances the Whitaker Grp’s mission of raising awareness around issues affecting the Black community through free educational seminars, pushing for voter registration, and participating in #TWGBlackout—proving again that, for many Black-owned stores, it’s bigger than sneakers and clothes.
RSVP Gallery, established by Virgil Abloh and Don C in 2009 in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood, is equal parts luxury boutique and art gallery. The footwear choices include Nike, Off-White, Adidas, and more. The apparel offerings cover all the names necessary to set your Instagram feed on fire: Dior, Mastermind, Martine Rose, and Undercover, to list a few. Unfortunately, looters hit the store’s Los Angeles location back in May—which is tough for any business, no matter the owners’ stature.
Social Status’ Charlotte door—cousin to its stores in Greensboro, Raleigh, Houston, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, and Pittsburgh, where it has two—feels like a modern sneaker shopping experience. Another James Whitner property, it has an intuitive layout, and its displays look like an Instagram photo come to life. It’s unpretentious, though, yet nowhere near the generic vibe of other chains. Which is to say it’s definitely worth a stop.
Succezz is another Chicago haunt that stocks the latest from Jordan Brand, Nike, Adidas, and Puma, as well as a selection of old and rare finds, and gear from BBC, Mitchell & Ness, and more. When the pandemic hit, owners Bobby Simmons, a former NBA player, and fellow Windy City native LaVelle “V-Dot” Sykes kept up business online, and the store is now open for curbside pickup. Stop by and make a purchase to support a good shop in a tough time.
Downtown Milwaukee’s Sneex offers a wide range of footwear brands—Puma, Reebok, and Dr. Martens, to name a few—and loads of apparel from Chinatown Market, Carrots, and more. Beyond shopping options, Sneex weaves in owner Eric “Shake” James’ appreciation for gaming, music, and community by hosting forums, movie screenings, fundraisers, and other events. It’s a good place to pick up a pair of Yeezys while soaking up some game on the industry, too.
Puffer Reds, the former small record shop-turned-sneaker store, has been an institution in Ypsilanti since 1979. Now with two locations in the area, Eric Williams’ family-owned business doesn’t disappoint when it comes to selection, since it carries everything from staple Adidas models to full-family sizing for Jordan retros, along with a solid range of clothing from brands like BBC and Carrots.