Harlem teen cashes in with ‘Sneaker Pawn’

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While most teenagers are enjoying the summer break, 16-year-old Chase Reed is working hard at his New York City business, “Sneaker Pawn.”

The two-month-old shop, located on 120th Street and Lenox Avenue, deals exclusively in sneakers, allowing those looking for quick cash to pawn their kicks.

Chase and his father, Troy Reed, created the business after Chase on several occasions asked to borrow money from his dad just days after they stood in long lines together to get the latest, limited edition sneakers.

“What I would tell him is, ‘listen gimme a pair of those sneakers I just bought you and I’m gonna hold them and you have a week or two weeks to pay me back my money,’” says Troy.

They did this a couple times, and Troy recalls his son saying to him, “You know, Dad, you basically making me pawn you my sneakers.” That statement started the wheels turning, and Sneaker Pawn was born.

When customers come in looking to pawn their sneakers, the shop places a value on them, and a deal is negotiated.

“You have 90 days to come back and get your sneaker,” says Chase. “Of course, if you don’t want your sneaker, you just sell it.”

If customers want their sneakers back, they pay the same price they pawned them for plus the monthly $20 storage fee.

The shop also buys, sells, customizes and refurbishes sneakers.

But when it comes to pawns and purchases for the shop, Chase and Rahsaan Capers, the resident sneaker experts, are only looking for “high-end” kicks that are well kept and hard to find.

“First, I’m looking for the kind of sneaker it is. If it’s a Jordan, Foamposite, or something rare I haven’t seen before,” says Capers. “We look for the wear and tear of it. If it’s heel burn … sock burn.”

And this keen eye for what’s hot and what’s not is a valuable commodity in the resale market.

“I bought a pair for $30 dollars and sold them for $300,” says Chase. “This is the Lebron 10. This is the crown jewels. These are worth $1,200.”

Sneaker analyst Matt Powell of SportsOneSource says the resale market was roughly one-percent of the $22 billion sneaker industry in the U.S. last year.

“The resale market, meaning the after-market sale in the U.S., is about $200 million at retail,” says Powell.

Though it’s only a small percentage of this larger market, when translated to dollars, it could mean big profits for a small business owner.

Chase, meanwhile, is already thinking big, looking to build his brand overseas.

“We would like to go out to other countries and expand over there, such as France,” says the soon-to-be 11th grader. “We have customers calling from Germany … Australia. We definitely have a market waiting for us outside the country.”

But for now, Chase and his dad are taking the sneaker game by storm right from their Harlem neighborhood.