After a year and a half running his midtown business, Elvin Reyes is convinced of one thing: This town has an awful lot of “sneakerheads.”
For the uninitiated, those are people -- mostly teenagers and young adults -- who make a hobby and sometimes a passion out of collecting and buying and selling limited-issue athletic shoes linked to basketball greats like Michael Jordan and entertainers including Kanye West.
Reyes, a 35-year-old graphic designer learned about the phenomenon a couple of years ago when a local Facebook group asked him to make some sneaker-themed T-shirts and they instantly sold out.
He subsequently joined with three buddies to open a tiny shoe consignment store, Kicx Unlimited, that shared space in midtown with a vape shop and barber operation.
It was a gamble.
“You’d just think New York, LA and San Francisco, (this concept) would work because it’s in a mainstream city and it might not work in a small market” like Sacramento, Reyes said.
But it’s worked just fine.
Last August, Kicx moved into a 2,000-square-foot store, at 2508 J St. And last week Reyes signed a lease to move this summer into a 6,800-square-foot, two-level space at 1009 Seventh St., a block from Golden 1 Center.
The current store has about 1,000 pairs of “kicks” on display, ranging from used shoes starting at about $50 per pair to rare, retro sneakers in mint condition priced in the thousands of dollars.
Included in the mix is one of just 10 Air Jordan IV pairs of sneakers that were produced for charity in a collaboration with clothing maker Carhartt and rapper Eminem. That Kicx pair was sold online this week to a buyer in the United Kingdom for $22,000.
Another hard-to-find piece of inventory: a pair of Nike Yeezys, the brand championed by Kanye West, priced at $3,600.
Besides rare shoes, another store attraction is an arcade-style crane game, called the Kicx Master, where visitors can spend $5 for a chance to manipulate a mechanical arm to unlock a box and snag a shoe valued at $300 to $2,000.
One man, Elk Grove barber Alfonso Thomas, has won 31 times, Reyes said, and consequently has achieved local fame.
“He’s an Instagram celebrity,” Reyes said of Thomas. “He goes to the mall and everybody says, ‘You’re the Kicx Master.’”
The Kicx partners make their money by charging a 15 percent commission on shoes that are brought in for resale by avid collectors and resellers.
The resellers usually get their shoes by traveling around to local stores like Foot Locker in advance of the almost weekly new sneaker releases and signing up for the raffles that now are often used to apportion out purposely limited supplies of shoes.
We’re the only game in town. So if you buy (sneakers) at Foot Locker or Champs, there’s only one place to resell them safely. You can do it on eBay or Craigslist but risk getting mugged or not being paid.
Elvin Reyes, founder, Kicx Unlimited
“They clear out what they can ... and come straight here and make (a profit of) $25 to $50 a pair,” Reyes said. “You sell 10 of those (to Kicx) and you make $250 to $500 in a weekend.”
The store’s retail customers -- most of them male -- range from preteens to people in their 50s, said Reyes, who still is surprised at the buying power of some of the younger ones.
“You’ll see a kid 12 years old come in here with $500. It’s crazy,” he said.
One customer this week was Mario Ruiz, a 19-year-old Sacramentan who has just returned to town after playing soccer professionally in Mexico.
He said he has about 60 pairs of shoes. His favorites? Nike-brand sneakers that are endorsed by Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant.
“I don’t really care about the prices,” he said. “Whatever I like, I buy.”
Steven Tanaka, an 18-year-old who helps out at the store, said he has more than 50 pairs of sneakers, including two of his favorite shoe, the Air Jordan VI. He said the appeal is similar to collecting other things, “like comic books or trading cards.”
But Reyes, who calls himself a “converted sneakerhead,” said status is also a very big part of the attraction for many of the people drawn to “hot” shoes.
“If you see a guy walking around in Yeezys, other guys are going to say, ‘Nice kicks,’” he said. “It’s just part of the culture, I guess.”