Everyone has heard of “sneakerheads” and their love for their shoes, but finding the perfect spot to get your high end sneaker and receive great customer service is something that can be hard to find, especially in Indianapolis. That is why Carl Bradley and his partner, former NBA player, Fred Jones, created The Luxury Sneaker Exchange, a place for all sneaker lovers in Indianapolis. Their space, located right on Mass Ave, provides one-of-kind service with endless options of sneakers. Bradley and Jones started their brand to encourage the sneaker community and help it thrive.
Julie Valentine: Please describe the motive or message behind your brand.
Carl Bradley: We wanted to bring something different to Indy that we have seen in other cities, like New York or LA. We wanted to create a different vibe in the sneaker community. We have a budding, young sneaker culture here in Indianapolis and there aren’t a lot of options as far as finding a high end shoe. You only see that online. So, we wanted to bring that here to help the sneaker community.
JV: What prompted you to share this idea through your business?
CB: My partner played in the NBA and he also a jumpman on Brand Jordan. So, he had options and he could get shoes anytime he wanted. Matter of fact, we would joke about the boxes getting left at his doorstep. So, I bought my shoes and I was like ‘I don’t want to hear that man. I spent cold hard money on these shoes.’ So, it was different. We wanted to give that VIP treatment that athletes got to the “normal guy;” the nine-to-five guy, the guy with career or kids who likes Jordans and always has. We wanted to give him a little bit of a VIP feeling by giving him a product he can’t get anywhere else. I build a relationship with the customers and find out what they like and dislike, so we can cater more to that individual. The customer service goes right along with the quality of the shoes.
JV: What are some of the main challenges you face as an entrepreneur?
CB: We are a start up, so we are a small company. We started this store with our own collections (of shoes), Fred and I both collected sneakers. So we are a small business, unlike your Finish Line or other major retailers. Being local, especially in Indiana, is one of the biggest challenges, so we appreciate the love we get from the community in a growing sneaker industry.
JV: What is the biggest reward you experience as an entrepreneur?
CB: The biggest reward is putting something in someone’s hands that they can’t get anywhere else, like giving someone their first pair of Jordans and seeing a smile on their face. More than that, we do things for the community as well. We have a big project coming up where we will get to customize a sneaker for a child with cancer. So, he doesn’t know why he is coming into the store, but to see the look on his face when he gets the shoe that got customized just for them. It goes beyond just giving him the sneakers, it goes to helping out someone. So, we really like to interact with the community and that is what really pushes us.
JV: What do you think Indianapolis can do to support more local brands?
CB: Networking and working together. It could just be the brands teaming up to spread the word. We just need to be more aware of what businesses that are in the city and work together.
JV: Describe the kind of person who would wear your product.
CB: I could say a teenager who plays basketball but that is way too typical. I had a client who is sixty-four and he has twenty-four pairs of Jordans, 4 or 5 in which he has bought here in the last few months. He is an avid collector at sixty-plus years old. Then I get a kid who is only twelve who has started his own business buying and trading his sneakers. It is all over the place. The “sneaker bubble,” which we call it, hasn’t burst and it just keeps getting bigger. It is fueled by young kids trying to get in the game. You get some kids who wear the shoes and then some who collect them. Others take the pictures for Instagram and then sell them.
JV: Who is one person you’d love to see in your brand?
CB: I would like to sell Kanye West some Yeezys out of here. If I could sell him his own shoes, I would probably get that crazy Kanye ramp in the store, but it would be worth it.
JV: What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
CB: Don’t stop. You have all kinds of obstacles in life. People will tell you can’t do it or it is too hard but you have to stayed focused. If you have a dream or a passion, keep going.
JV: How do you hope your brand will evolve in future years?
CB: I want it to be more personalized for each customer. We know certain customers by name but I want to take it further with the whole customer service atmosphere. When you come in the store, not only do I know your name, size and shoe that you really like but we can get it to where I can have them shipped to your door. I just want to have it personalized more.
JV: How do you think celebrity endorsed streetwear is influencing modern street style?
CB: Greatly. Nike has always dominated the sneaker industry, but over the last few years Adidas, New Balance, Reebok, etc. have all been able to steal a little bit of that attention. They don’t have the athletes but have been able to get attention with celebrity endorsements; from Rihanna’s sneaker to Pusha T’s. Kendrick Lamar just put out a sneaker as well. The celebrity approach fuels a lot of sales. It has a huge impact on the industry.
Visit The Luxury Shoes Exchange’s Instagram