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Owner: John Lee
Though Philly might get lumped with New York when people talk about streetwear, for the past 11 years the City of Brotherly Love has had its own unmistakeable identity in the sneaker game thanks to Ubiq. The retailer soon will celebrate 10 years in its flagship on tony Walnut Street, where it has built a reputation for offering all the limited releases in one spot, including those from Nike SB. In fact, the store is one of the few non-core skate shops to stock that line. And Ubiq frequently puts on elaborate events to celebrate its collaborations, such as a bash on Nov. 9 for the store’s joint venture with Vans that featured legendary tattoo artist Hiroshi Hirakawa giving tattoos in the shop window. “Philly is a huge sneaker town and the community is strong,” said store manager Woody Kumetat.
Location: Los Angeles
Owners: Eddie Cruz & James Bond
Founded in 2001 in Los Angeles, the sneakerhead haven is more of an empire than a store, now counting four locations in California, one in Las Vegas and two in Japan, as well as a brisk e-commerce business, its own apparel line and a name that’s all but synonymous with exclusive drops and some of the most sought-after collaborations. Undefeated kept momentum going in 2013, dropping a Bringback Pack of retros with Nike and a collaboration for back-to-school with streetwear brand CLOT and Converse.
Location: New York
Owner: Lester Wasserman
Wasserman grew up in the shoe business, and it shows. In the sneaker shop-heavy town of New York, West NYC — the Upper West Side boutique Wasserman opened in 2007 — has made a name for itself with limited releases across the brand spectrum. Decorated in a style Wasserman calls “MTV’s ‘Remote Control’ meets man cave meets ‘That ’70s Show,’” the 1,000-sq.-ft. store has seen sales grow every year since its debut, driven by not only the local sneakerheads but tourists and outer-borough enthusiasts who wait in line for all the new releases, even as many as six a week. West launched e-commerce this summer in conjunction with the Tequila Sunrise Saucony Shadow 5000 shoe, created by Wasserman and his team. Future offerings include a second Shadow 5000 colorway called Cabin Fever and a New Balance shoe set for early in the fourth quarter.
Owner: Lauren Amos
Taken over by Amos and reborn as a sneaker shop in 2005, Wish has become Atlanta’s prime destination for the best-curated and most limited footwear. Housed in the former Carnegie Library building in the city’s Little Five Points neighborhood, the 3,212-sq.-ft. shop is designed to resemble a “footwear library,” said store buyer Frank Cooke. Taking up the entire first floor of the two-story space, the sneaker offering includes all the standards, as well as some fashion-oriented styles from the majors, including Adidas’ Consortium and Vans Vault. “Our clients and customers always want to be forward, want to be first. We’re the editors for [their fashion] lifestyle,” Cooke said.