Sneakerheads flock to Ithaca store for Nike shoes

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For 18-year-old Niall Hodges of Ithaca, shoe size 13 proved lucky Friday morning at Homegrown, the Commons skate shop.

His pair of Nike SB Dunk High Premium “Homegrown” shoes, packaged in a limited-edition wooden box, were the last pair on sale worldwide.

The shoes, custom designed by store owner Andrew Douglas, along with Mike Cook and Jesse Hill, were only available Friday at the Ithaca store. The sets in custom wooden boxes attracted collectors up and down the East Coast, with the line outside the store starting to form around 2 p.m. Thursday.

“I’ve been buying my sneakers here since I was 8 or 9, it’s a really big deal for this store and I’m really happy to be able to support it,” Hodges said. Not only was it his last pair, but it was also his size. “I wasn’t sure I could wear them, but it’s lucky,” he said.

As much as the event drew a sometimes tense line of sneaker collectors, it was a homecoming for the crowd, many of whom knew Douglas and Hill.

Jesse Moorhoff, formerly of Ithaca and now living in Santa Cruz, Calif., walked into the store and directly kissed Hill as soon as he saw him.

Jesse Moorhoff, left, with shoe co-designer Jesse Hill at Homegrown Friday morning.  Moorhoff is originally from Ithaca and now lives in Santa Cruz, California.

The mostly male crowd numbered around 75 just after the store opened at 9.30am. About 60 people lined up at 10:45 a.m. when the limited-edition boxes sold out.

Kimberley Cespedes of Auburn lined up around 10 p.m. Thursday to get one of the coveted pairs from a wooden box. She also bought a new skateboard deck for her son Joshua, 13, but explained the shoes were for her.

Nick Pagliaro, a 10th grader at Ithaca High School, skipped school to score a pair in a wooden box, but wasn’t as lucky as Hodges when it came to size. He said he hoped to swap sizes with friends who had also marked down a pair.

Meanwhile, store owner Douglas worked nonstop to increase sales.

“I haven’t had a chance to stop and think about it yet, it’s crazy,” Douglas said of making sure a customer had a set of stickers to go with their shoes.

The shoes were $185 with the wooden box, a t-shirt, and a dust bag, or $120 for a pair in a standard cardboard box.

Local store owner Andrew Douglas, left, handles the register as Keith Ward of Syracuse scores a pair of Nike SB Dunk High Premium "Terroir" shoes in a coveted wooden box Friday morning.

“It’s amazing. I’m super proud of all these guys, they’ve worked really hard all last year,” said Douglas’ girlfriend Liz Zaharis, who wore a coveted pair of shoes as she was perched on a stepladder in the store. “It was amazing to see all the support from the local people,” she said.

Douglas, Cook and Hill have been working on the design for the past two years. Visual design was primarily done by Hill, who grew up in the Ithaca area.

Liz Zaharias of Ithaca, girlfriend of Homegrown store owner Andrew Douglas, looks at the initial sales of the Nike SB Dunk High Premium 'Homegrown' shoes Friday morning in the store.

Hill has known Douglas for 17 years and worked with him at his former store, Hardpact. They did a lot of design work together for stores, boards, and shirts, “and so this opportunity just kind of felt right,” said Hill, who now lives in Baltimore.

“The 17, 18-year-old skater inside of me is just excited to be able to be part of, say, designing a skate shoe. It’s kind of cool,” Hill said.

Not everyone was lucky. Marcus Simmons, who was about 50th in line, had arrived from Washington, DC, arriving at the line at 4:45 a.m. He said the lure of the limited-edition box persuaded him to make the trip.

“Something like that, where it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I had to do it,” Simmons said, but he was still a few people away from the door when the boxed edition ran out.

The crowd waits to enter the store.  Customers were allowed to enter two at a time.

Chris Cowan of the Press Cafe helped keep shoe shoppers happy in the queue, offering cups of Costa Rican coffee from Copper Horse Coffee Roasters. “Something to show our appreciation to the downtown community,” Cowan said.

Several members of the Hill family were on the Commons to witness the scene. His father, Eriksson Hill, described how a year ago his son told him he was designing a shoe for Nike. “It kind of went in one ear and out the other,” said Eriksson Hill, of Bel Air, Maryland.

But on Friday morning, Eriksson Hill struggled to find words to capture his feelings. He described seeing people queuing in the cold Thursday night waiting to buy the shoe his son had helped design. “I couldn’t believe there (were) people online,” he said.

The sneaker goes on sale nationwide on Saturday, but no one else can get a wood-boxed edition. “The box makes it a more exclusive thing for sneaker lovers,” said Avery Edmunds of Ithaca, who scored the first pair sold in a wooden box.

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Nike makes shoes for Ithaca skate shop

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