Today, I went for a bike ride. While I was driving up to the destination I noticed a bunch of young kids gathering in the parking lot. Wait! Are they selling Jordan’s? Yep! It was a meet up of a few dozen sneaker heads buying, selling, and trading sneakers. It took me back a few years earlier when I was just like them.
The year was 2013. I was about to turn 40 years old. I had always wanted to work for Nike. I am a huge Nike fan. Michael Jordan was the start of my obsession with Nikes. But, since I was already married with children and was doing well in the industry that I chose to work in… well I had another idea.
I was spending a lot of money on sneakers. I think in February of 2013, I had spent close to five thousand dollars on sneakers. I was buying everything that I could. I also found an online sneaker group called Sole661. I was hooked. Everyone was buying and selling sneakers or trading new and used pairs of Jordans. It was a sneaker heads dream!
I then had an idea. Bakersfield did not have a sneaker store that was dedicated to the after market craze. In New York or LA you had Flight Club or in LA you had RIF and a few other spots that you could find the hard to find Jordans. But, Bakersfield did not have anything. So, I decided to open my own store.
I had a great friend and mentor who owned a building in downtown Bakersfield. He told me had an office space that was available and the rent was cheap. I just thought to myself, “If I can spend $5k in one month on shoes… I can cover $300 rent.” So, I took the spot and started the process of remodeling it. I had a budget somewhere in the range of $500 – $1000 dollars. My mom even joined in and gave me $750 or maybe a little more. I found a handyman and had him change the flooring, hang some cool galvanized piping so that wood could be placed on top of it. I had him add some track lighting and fresh new paint. And, what space could you have and not have a TV and video game console?
The next big thing was to come up with a name and logo. I think the name came to me at church. I was sitting there listening to the pastor talk and I heard, “Must be the sole.” It was a play on the Nike commercial with Spike Lee when he asks Michael Jordan, “It must be the shoes!” Must Be The Sole was born. But, what about the logo? This was tricky. For starters… you couldn’t just walk into the shop. It was hidden. You had to have known me or heard about me in the Sneaker Group on Facebook to gain access. So, it was a hidden gem. Once you got inside you felt like you were in another city. It was a destination. It was a place you wanted to be and you wanted to connect with a community of sneaker heads.
The logo ending up being an “X”. It had a double meaning. The first pair of Air Jordans were banned from the NBA. Nike had released a pair called, “The Ban 1’s” and they had an “X” on the back of the heel. It also meant that “X” marks the spot. Because you could not just walk into the store, you had to find it and it was not easy. You would usually have to text me and then I would come down and meet you at the door that was always locked. I knew I was on the right track when one of the guys in the group said I should doing something on the “Banned 1 theme” for the logo.
On March 29th, 2013, my 40th birthday, I opened up Must Be The Sole. No one could see my vision. When I showed people the office it was a dump. But, I explained to them what it was going to look like. They all just kinda rolled their eyes and said sure Mike. Although I was only open for 9 months, I had the time of my life. I met many good people and I met some real low life’s. The good people definitely outweighed the low life’s. I learned a lot about business and how to deal with customers. I wish I would have never stopped. But, I had some other things that I needed to attend to.
I still get guys to this very day that will send me photos of their Must Be The Sole shirts. They all still miss this wonderful place that I created. It was a bunch of guys who grew up poor wishing they could buy these shoes and one day we all became adults with money who could now afford them. None of us held back either. It was a great time and seeing all those kids gathering today brought back some great memories.