It’s not often that you find guys lining up around the block to shop for shoes, but in the world of sneaker collecting, it’s a surprisingly common sight. So-called “sneakerheads” will even camp out on the sidewalks to stake out new releases from hot brands like Nike and Adidas, even if only to resell them for a profit. When it comes to men’s streetwear, we’re not sure any other niche inspires quite the same passion as sneakers do (although raw denim might come close).
That popularity is showing no signs of slowing any time soon. Analysts expect the burgeoning sneaker resale market to balloon into a $6 billion industry by 2025, and at the top sits Jaysse Lopez, a panhandler-turned-entrepreneur who built a multimillion-dollar sneaker empire. In 2019 alone, Lopez’ Urban Necessities resale outlet brought in more than $20 million in sales. That’s more than a little impressive for someone who was homeless not even a decade ago.
But Lopez has the passion to back up his success. More than a mere businessman, the former panhandler is a major sneakerhead himself and can regularly be found at trade shows chatting it up with everyone from fellow collectors to industry insiders and brand reps. Lopez’ rise was a rocky one, and his movie-worthy rags-to-riches success story now stands as an inspiration to sneakerheads and aspiring entrepreneurs.
Hailing from Puerto Rico, the 41-year-old Lopez did not come from money. His business journey started with a plane ticket to Nevada, a single change of clothes in a backpack, and a $20 bill given to him by his mother. He spent the next six months homeless, barely getting by, dumpster diving and panhandling on the Las Vegas Strip, crashing in cheap motels and on friends’ couches when he was lucky, and sleeping in a city park when he wasn’t.
Soon, he stumbled upon the world of sneakers after seeing men standing in line at the mall awaiting a new release — their plan being to buy the in-demand sneakers at retail and sell them to collectors for profit. This was Lopez’s first introduction to the sneaker resale market, although he set this aside when he managed to land a proper job at an AT&T store. He soon fell ill, however, and was placed on medical leave before being let go. He was evicted and had to move in with his new girlfriend and future wife, Joanie, whose parents let him move in.
Lopez then decided to give sneaker reselling another shot. With his income tax refund and some money from his girlfriend, he purchased 18 pairs of the “Area 72” Nike Barkley Posite Max 2013 release. The pair flipped all but one pair to the tune of $3,000 profit. To this day, Lopez credits the existence of Urban Necessities to that sneaker. He initially only planned to resell sneakers part-time until he could find another job, but despite sending out more than a hundred applications, no new opportunities came.
Leveraging his natural salesmanship and experience (he worked retail as a teen), Lopez soon realized where his real talents — and where the real money — lay, although it would be a while before his hustle turned profitable. He was soon back to crashing on couches and his relationship with Joanie fell apart. Lopez decided to switch up his business model a bit, offering to consign older sneakers from former buyers for a flat $20 fee per sale. He took these shoes to a trade show in 2014. There, he sold 450 pairs and had a fateful meeting with a mall rep that convinced Lopez to finally open a store. The rep even gave him a few months of free rent to get started.
He reconnected with Joanie and told her he didn’t want to run his business without her. She agreed, and Two Js Kicks (which would later be rebranded as Urban Necessities) was born in the largely abandoned Boulevard Mall in Las Vegas. By the end of the year — only a few months after opening — the couple had cleared more than $1 million worth of sneaker sales. The next year, it was $4 million. Urban Necessities soon moved locations and eventually expanded to a two-story, 18,000 square-foot storefront that is also home to an ice cream shop, a barber, and a tattoo parlor. Lopez now has a network of more than 40,000 sneakerheads who have commissioned him for consignment. He still charges just $20 or 10% (whichever is greater) per pair sold, the lowest consignment rate in the country.
The incredible story of Jaysse Lopez and his rise to become king of sneaker resale is now being featured in Sole Survivor, a new entry in The Undefeated docuseries which is airing as part of The Undefeated’s ongoing Black History Month Always special. You can stream it online now by signing up for ESPN+.
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