BAYSIDE — Whenever a hot new pair of shoes come out, "sneakerheads" across the city will wait for hours to get their hands on them. Some camp out overnight, but many others aren't able to buy them at all.
But James Sparro doesn't wait on line. As the co-owner of Bayside's IV Forty 8, the hottest kicks in town come to him.
The store, located at 45-74 Bell Blvd., is a new sneaker boutique that buys expensive, hard-to-find shoes from people on consignment and resells them — usually with a hefty price tag. Right now, the most expensive sneakers in the store — a pair of Nike Foamposite Galaxies, which retail for $220 — are listed for $1,600.
While those sky-high prices don't faze the die-hards, they do come as a shock to some of the shop's less-savvy clientele.
"Older people will come by and they'll look at the price, take a picture, ask why it's so much money," the 30-year-old Sparro said.
He opened the store in April with partner Chris Vasquez, who he met 10 years ago working at his father's parking lot. Vasquez, 28, was a collector of Nike Air Jordans and dreamed of one day launching a boutique sneaker shop. It's named in honor of Sparro's uncle, who was born in 1948 and passed away shortly before the store's opening.
Vasquez started collecting about 15 years ago, when he finished work for the summer and decided to use the money he saved up to buy sneakers. One day, he looked in his closet and saw 10 boxes stacked up.
"And I thought, 'What would it look like if there were 50?'" Vasquez said.
Now he has more than 400 pairs of Jordans alone.
"They say if you do something you love, you don't work a day in your life," Vasquez said. "I just thought it would be cool to open a boutique."
Sparro explained that he was "just bored, doing nothing" and asked Vasquez if he wanted to go for it.
The store's initial inventory of 135 pairs of shoes came from Sparro's closet. On April 22, their first day, they sold just two pairs of sneakers for a total of $538. By day three, they had sold five pairs for $1,294.
Word of mouth got them some more customers, and they began to add on more and more inventory. Today they offer about 300 pairs, Sparro says.
The store takes up the bulk of their time, and on some days Sparro will travel out of state to pick up shoes. Even his father, Jim Sparro, 62, helps out around IV Forty 8 when he isn't supervising the parking lots at JFK and LaGuardia airports.
The older Sparro said that despite the variety of sneakers, the kids will inevitably hover around the locked case inconspicuously placed in the corner. Their eyes pass over the other Nikes and ultimately land on the $1,600 Galaxies, which he noted they stare at in awe, exclaiming, "I've never seen them in person!"
"Can you believe that?" asked the older Sparro. "This is a subculture I knew nothing about four months ago."
The consignment process works on an 80-20 split, with the shop taking only 20 percent. The customers who bring in the shoes sets the price, signs a consignment agreement and, if the sneakers are sold, collects a check directly from the store.
The shop will work with the consigner to set a good price, usually working off of the pricing of their competition. If a sneaker store in the Village is selling a pair for $400, IV Forty 8 may advise the customer to sell it at $390 or $385. This is what the duo explained they offer that other boutique shops don't: better pricing and a more personal customer service experience.
But ultimately, the younger Sparro thinks the store will succeed because it provides a service that Bayside residents have never been offered before.
"I grew up in this neighborhood, and I know everybody in this neighborhood," Sparro said. "There's nothing like this around the neighborhood at all."