Long before COVID-19 kicked in, most of us were already doing much of our shopping virtually. But when the product is compelling and just stepping in the door of a store is an experience in itself, getting off the couch is a no-brainer.
Such is the case at Stadium Goods, the New York-bred mecca where sportswear and streetwear have been colliding since 2015. Now, the purveyor of connoisseur-quality sneakers and apparel has opened its second brick-and-mortar outlet in Chicago at 60 E Walton St.
Founders John McPheters and Jed Stiller are convinced they’ve landed in the right place with their new home away from home. Let’s hear what they have to say about the opening and what Windy City sneakerheads should expect inside.
InsideHook: How did you settle on Chicago for your first beyond New York store?
John McPheters: Chicago has a style that is utterly unique and genuine. It has an incredible sneaker culture in its own right — in fact, the classic colorway of the shoe that many people credit with launching modern sneaker culture, the red, black and white Air Jordan 1, is nicknamed the “Chicago.” Chicago’s also the hometown of arguably the most important sneaker designers of the last five years, Kanye West and Virgil Abloh. Chicago was the only choice that we considered for our second retail location.
Has COVID thrown you off your game?
Jed Stiller: We never considered changing course, even though the pandemic posed challenges to the opening. We’ve been forced to reconsider the way we do a lot of things, but the underlying principles stay the same: bringing a premium shopping experience to the culture that we’re a part of. Even before COVID, the “experience” of retail was becoming more and more important, and it’s taken on even greater importance now that people have become even more accustomed to shopping online. We represent a culture that looks at sneakers as cultural artifacts as well as fashion pieces, and we provide shoppers with wow moments in a museum-like setting. It’s something you can’t replicate online.
Tell us more about the store’s gallery-like design.
McPheters: On the first floor there’s a 60-foot-long by 16-foot-high wall that holds over 800 sneakers. The second floor is unique to our Chicago store. It features a modular merchandising system rendered in glass and brushed stainless steel, inspired by the industrial and modern language of Chicago’s influential and legendary skyscraper architecture.
Stadium Goods is a high-end operation. How do you find a staff worthy of the brand?
Stiller: This is a great question, and gets at a not-so-secret key to our success. As mentioned, we see our stores as museums and experiences, so having expert staff is absolutely essential. People in the community know the Stadium Goods brand and what it represents, and are eager to be a part of it. It’s important, however, that the store staff have a premium retail mindset in addition to the subject-area expertise. For many years, sneaker culture was very insular and perceived as unwelcoming to outsiders. Part of the Stadium Goods value proposition was a desire to open up this beautiful culture to a wider audience. We want to wow people and welcome them at the same time.
When you partner with Christie’s to auction a pair of Michael Jordan’s game shoes from 1985 — that fetch $615,000 — some Chicagoans might think Stadium Goods is not for them. What do you say?
McPheters: Stadium Goods is a place for people who love sneakers and streetwear and the storytelling, history and culture that inform them. We cater to shoppers who’ve been collecting sneakers for decades. We cater to shoppers who don’t even know the different brands, they just want a cool-looking shoe. We offer hundreds of styles that sell for less than $100; we offer a handful of truly one-of-a-kind pieces that sell for more than $50,000. There’s truly something for everyone.
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