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The world’s first and only pawn shop devoted entirely to sneakers is now in Harlem. And this is not for those grimy gym sneakers you have in your closet. Sneaker Pawn USA, located at 200 Lenox Avenue at 120th Street is run by a father and (teenage) son team from their Harlem apartment selling rare kicks that can sell for up to $15,000.

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Rare sneakers have become the new trading cards for kids and adult collectors. The buying, trading and selling of rare and classic sneakers online and in conventions like the Ultimate Sneaker Con have turned sneaker collecting into its own culture. The trend can be traced back to the late 80s with the popularity of the Nike branded Air Jordan sneaker line. Today, people still line up for hours to get their hands on the latest pair of Air Jordan sneakers.

Business man, documentary filmmaker and co-founder of Sneaker Pawn USA, Troy Reed, was one of those people waiting in line from 12-8 am, to purchase new pairs of Jordan’s for his son Chase. Growing up, whenever Chase would ask his father for some extra cash, Troy would loan it to him, on one condition: that he would hold on to one of his son’s prized pair of sneakers. Chase would have his sneakers returned to him only when he paid back his father in full.

It was Chase–who goes by the nickname “Sneakers”–who brought up the idea of opening a pawn shop devoted to the sale of rare and custom sneakers, with the inspiration coming from his own financial relationship with his father.

Sneaker Pawn USA-Harlem-Interior-Troy Reed-NYCPhoto via Sneaker Pawn

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The father and son team decided to turn this parenting method into a business plan, transforming their Harlem apartment into a business with the start-up money coming from Chase himself. In the New York’s Post’s feature on Sneaker Pawn, it is reported that the $30,000 raised by Chase in order to start this new business, came from sales of some of his 200-pair sneaker collection.

In the first days of business, the father and son team started giving out flyers and using word of mouth to gain clients. But New YorkPost article really jumpstarted the business. The people who come to pawn off shoes have kept them in mint condition for over a decade. In some cases, clients give away the collection of lost relatives. Others use the money from the sneakers to better their lives.

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While there is money to be made if you have a truly rare sneaker to sell, not just anyone can just drop off a pair of old Air Jordans and expect to make a profit off them. Each shoe is examined thoroughly, with the staff at Sneaker Pawn feeling, looking and even smelling the sneaker in order to determine its overall value. Talking to the staff, it is clear to some that this more than just a job. It’s also an opportunity to be more at one with the Sneakerhead culture. A young girl named Damaries told us point blank that her interest in working at Sneaker Pawn is not to see how much certain sneakers will end up costing, but “because of the culture and the history behind the sneaker.”

With new found success and credibility in the Sneakerhead culture forthcoming, young and ambitious Chase and his father Troy, who has studied the lives of other DIY Harlem business man like Alpo and Rich Porter, are planning to quickly expand their business. In the next couple of years they want Sneaker Pawn stores not only here in Manhattan, but in other major sneaker markets like LA and Atlanta.

In NYC, new businesses pop up all the time, however, the story behind this particular business, with two native New Yorkers, father and son working together is truly worth more than a rare pair of sneakers. With that being said, we are sure there are some at Sneakerpawn who would show us otherwise.

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Want to know how much his sneakers are worth (spoiler: not much), contact the author @TatteredFedora

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