Wale, D.C.’s most successful rapper, emerges from the Wisconsin Avenue shop wearing a purple, fur-lined hoodie and bright yellow sneakers. As he walks out on a recent Friday afternoon, around 60 customers are in line waiting to get into the shop he and his entourage have just departed. The store is Kickk Spott, and for local sneakerheads, it’s a little slice of heaven in Georgetown. Brimming with individually shrink-wrapped Air Jordans and rare pairs of Nikes that are kept behind glass, it’s the only boutique destination for high-end sneakers in the area, playing to a clientele of shoe lovers who will pay top dollar for hard-to-find kicks.
The long line exists because Kickk Spott allows 11 shoppers in at once, buzzing them in one at a time. The number is set by the store, not the fire marshal.
“It’s more of a precaution thing,” manager Emerson Rodriguez says. “No particular reasons. It gets real crowded with more than 11 people.”
On this day, the shoppers are anxiously angling for the new Nike Air Jordan XI 11 Bred. The latest model in the classic Air Jordan line was produced in an extremely limited run; Kickk Spott was able to acquire only 30 pairs. Rarity is part and parcel of the sneaker-loving subculture that blossomed with the first Nike swoosh in 1971, gained steam with an array of athletic endorsements in the ’80s and hasn’t let up since.
Kickk Spott sneaked quietly onto the local scene, opening in North Bethesda’s White Flint Mall in February 2011. A year later, the shop relocated to the luxury-laden streets of Georgetown and has done solid business since then. In addition to selling new sneakers, Kickk Spott offers a finely curated selection of gently worn shoes.
“Our sneakers sell for, on average, between $300 and $400,” says Rodriguez from behind the register. “Only about five to 10 percent of our inventory is used,” he says. “But we only buy back shoes that are in nine out of 10 condition.”
Cash-strapped customers who sell on consignment make 80 percent of their money back, and used inventory moves quickly. “Used sneakers sell for under $200, and we post a photo of them on Instagram,” Rodriguez says. Newly available items are put on display to Kickk Spott’s more than 15,000 followers on the popular photo-sharing service. It’s one of the easiest ways to keep track of what’s new at the store, which has an e-mail address but no public phone number.
Rodriguez pauses his sales breakdown when a young customer who stopped in earlier returns with more than $500 in cash to snap up a fresh pair of kicks. “We have a really diverse clientele,” he continues. “The ages range from 13 to 50.”
Andomino Bullock, 36, is a frequent customer. He’s been buying cheap and expensive sneakers since he started earning paychecks around age 13, and he first arrived at Kickk Spott hours before the store’s 2011 grand opening.
“I like to have a different look every day,” he says. “Before [Kickk Spott], it was just retail stores around here.” Bullock says his most prized pair is his Nike Skunk SBs. Released in 2010, the pair can now fetch up to $600.
So how many pairs of sneakers does Bullock own? He smiles and takes a minute to think about it. “Around 100?” he guesses. His longtime girlfriend, Sheryl Miner, verifies his estimate.
The high prices may mystify those outside the sneakerhead scene, but Kickk Spott customers don’t hesitate to fork over the big bucks. The store features a few other items, but a hyperfocus on shoe culture, combined with prominent consignment options, is what sets the store apart from other popular urbanwear retailers such as Commonwealth and Major.
Will the shop make it past its first year in its new neighborhood? Long-term success is never certain in a neighborhood like Georgetown, but according to Rodriguez, “Business has been steady since we opened.”
And there are 60-some would-be customers standing on the sidewalk to confirm that.