Shop: Sneaker City

Sneaker City

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Ken Min’s Sneaker City is a city the way Wilmington is a city. It’s small, but it takes advantage of its size. It’s got history, but it’s ready to pivot as circumstances change. It’s global in spirit, but it knows everyone’s name. Ken’s a constant presence in the store, the only way to keep the finger on the pulse of Wilmington’s feet. But he’s not the first Min who decided that Market needed a better shoe store…

“My dad started this business back in 19 … 80? Ish. My parents came here with just the clothes on their back and very little money, determined to build a life for themselves and for us. I asked him once, why shoes? He told me his brother suggested it. I think his brother had a clothing business and said, why don’t you start a shoe business?”

“We started on 5th and Market, where The Queen is now. It was a really big building. The back end was still the theater, but the Market Street side had three storefronts. There was our store, a radio store and a men’s clothing store. I remember being a little kid in that store. My dad started with Converse and Pro Players, just a handful of things. It wasn’t a big store, but by the time we were moving to come here, every usable space in the store was like filled with shoes.”

Ken on kids these days

“There’s always the trendsetters and then the followers. But I’m seeing more kids who will pick up a shoe and they’ll say, ‘Hey is this is this selling? Are a lot of people buying it?’ I’ll say, ‘Yeah, it’s real popular.’ And they’ll put it down and ask ‘What’s not selling?’ I’m seeing more of that individuality with kids fashion and style.”

“And then there’s what they call ‘micro trends.’ A shoe will just gain so much interest in a short amount of time, kids will go crazy for it. We might have it, sell out, reorder it, and by time and it comes in, they don’t want it anymore. It’s gone just as quick as it popped up. And today’s kids are the pickiest kids I’ve ever seen in all my time around shoes. They come in and they ask you if you have the shoe, you say no, they turn around and leave.”

Ken on keeping up with the sneaker world

“It’s tough man. Social media is just king. You have to be on, looking at what’s trending, what people are wearing, going on these vlogs. It’s time consuming on that end. My wife gets on me all the time about being on my phone all the time. I’m like, look, I’m actually working! I’m not just looking at these pictures, I need to know!”

“We get a lot of help from the vendors. They always have a forecast of what’s going to be hot. I’d say 80 to 90 percent of time, they’re on point. But there’s always that 10-20 percent where a shoe just comes out of nowhere. No one really booked it, but it just blew up.”

“I’ll book my core stuff that I need to book, things that obviously I know will sell. But I’m always trying other things too. Being a small store has its advantages and disadvantages, so I need to differentiate myself from these big-box guys. I just have to do my own thing. The kids say they like coming here because we have stuff that other stores don’t have.

Ken on what a dad can try to do to look cool

“So, funny you say that. There’s something trending right now. It’s an old silhouette with the chunky sole, kind of clunky looking. They call it ‘The Dad Shoe.’ So, you know, no one’s out of place in the shoe world.”