It’s nearly 10 a.m. inside one of Over-the-Rhine’s newest shops – a sneaker resale and clothing store, creative hub and popup space called From the Sidewalk. Owner Nick Nguyen sits with his collaborators Nigel Agboh and Mike Giddens under a neon sign that throws a cool green glow over the corner of the room. A rack of vintage clothes in the opposite corner catches some of the light, while rows and rows of rare shoes line the walls.
It’s an exciting time of day for a sneakerhead — aka a collector or brand and style historian dedicated to the hype and the hustle. The Nike SNKRS app is about to drop its latest must-have shoe, with thousands vying to win one of a handful of spots in the lottery-style drawing.
And, yes, the From the Sidewalk crew is among them.
“At 10 o’clock a few mornings a week, basically you get on the app and wait and pray you win the shoe,” Giddens says. “There’s 100,000 people on this app right now doing the same thing we are, putting in their money like, ‘Here’s my money, take it, I want this shoe.’ And then in about six, seven minutes, we are more than likely all going to get a notification that says, ‘Sorry, you didn’t get it.’”
Agboh thumbs his phone to refresh the page, noting that these designs typically have a high resale value. Today’s prize is the Nike SB Dunk “Phillies,” a light blue shoe with a burgundy swoosh, colors reminiscent of Philadelphia’s Major League Baseball uniforms in the ’80s.
Suddenly, each man receives a winning message.
“Got ‘em. Got ‘em!” Giddens says.
He holds his phone aloft, beaming as he displays the notification.
“This, everybody screenshots this and posts it on their Instagram story, flexin’, showin’ off that they got the shoe that came out today,” Giddens says.
This is sneaker culture at its most dedicated. The subculture once driven by hip-hop, basketball and street style is now devoured by the masses, and individuals like Nguyen, Agboh and Giddens have become tastemakers.
Nguyen, a third-year finance student at the University of Cincinnati, grew up in Vietnam. His passion for sneakers dates back to the pairs he saved his allowance to buy as a teenager.
“I grew up a city kid, so there’s always some sort of graffiti, deejaying or breakdancing somewhere around the neighborhood,” he says. “I grew up playing basketball too. And sneakers just tie in with everything. You have to be fresh all the time, that’s a culture code. When you step out, you have to come correct.”
Nguyen has built quick-draw pop-up sales into his business model to help sustain that freshness. Before From the Sidewalk opened its storefront in July, the brand had been a successful online operation. Currently, Agboh and Giddens fill two pop-up slots, but the trio may consider a more permanent partnership if business remains good. Even with his new OTR shop, though, Nguyen says From the Sidewalk will continue to offer pop-up opportunities.
Nguyen regards Giddens a mentor in the shoe resale world. Giddens owns Heart and Sole, a popular local resale source that he first operated from his home and then a storage unit as the business grew.
But someone broke into the unit, Giddens says, stealing $100,000 worth of merchandise and as many as 400 pairs of shoes.
“It really rocked my world,” Giddens says. “I had basically dumped all my savings into my business, so when I got hit it wasn’t just my livelihood, it was everything I had.”
That’s when Giddens and Nguyen teamed up. Initially, Nguyen thought the reality of being a “pure sneakerhead” didn’t mesh with the resale world, but after being laid off during the COVID-19 pandemic, he was inspired to try something new.
After “flipping” his first pair of shoes, he saw the profit margin and was sold on the business.
“What we sell are limited products, which are either sold out instantly after seconds on the drop day or something that people just can’t get their hands on,” Nguyen says. “So we buy the limited or sold-out products and we flip it for a profit.”
Jet Black Vintage, the pop-up that Agboh hosts at From the Sidewalk, specializes in vintage clothing. What started as his personal collection now is his full-time business. He hosts pop-up markets weekly around Cincinnati and also offers monthly custom subscription boxes.
“What’s unique about our space as opposed to most other sneaker resale stores is you don’t necessarily invite the vintage community into this type of space,” Agboh says. “It’s typically whatever is hype, right? Supreme, Off-White, those are the things that are driven by the mainstream kind of fashion streetwear culture. But at its root, this is where all that stuff began, from vintage designs. If you look at some things on the vintage rack and compare it to some of the hype stuff, it’s almost carbon copy at a certain point.”
Business has been good in From the Sidewalk’s first two months. Giddens says customers often are eager to learn what shoes are coming in next.
The trio looks forward to giving back to the community and bringing in new collaborators. A recent back-to-school charity event gathered school supplies and shoe donations, and Agboh donated 10% of his t-shirt series that features dogs to local animal shelter Cincinnati Animal CARE.
“I think that individually, we all have a calling or a social responsibility to give back to the community in which we occupy,” Agboh says. “This type of business is so creative and we can pivot in so many different ways – especially as we look at the community in OTR, the demographic that is coming to frequent our shop – and understand the needs of our community.”
From the Sidewalk, 1212 Main St., Over-the-Rhine. Info: thesidewalkshop.com.