It was on the corner of 158th Street and Broadway where Fat Joe first learned how to be an entrepreneur. As a young kid, Joe and his sibling would post up on this block in Harlem and hustle toys during the holidays.
“We’d go down to 23rd and Broadway and buy stuff like little cop motorcycles. We would buy them for $8 and sell them for $15,” Fat Joe told Sole Collector in an exclusive interview. “Then we came down here in front of 158th and Broadway and we would sell them.”
Fat Joe’s career as a businessman comes full circle on Nov. 5 when he officially opens the doors to Up NYC, his sneaker store located within a stone’s throw of where he first flipped thousands of dollars worth of toys.
Getting into the sneaker business was a natural move for Joe. He’s one of a few rappers with an organic connection to sneakers. If anyone needs to check Fat Joe’s sneaker credentials, look no further than the time he chose to lick the bottom of a pair of Olympic Air Jordan 7s on MTV Cribs instead of showing off his marble countertops or Ferrari sitting in the driveway.
“We loved sneakers and we love collecting sneakers,” he said. “It turned into this phenomenon. That was before everything was crazy.”
Getting Jordan Brand and Nike to co-sign the store was more difficult than Joe thought it would be. He says he ran into several hurdles trying to nail down vendors, even though he had a longstanding relationship with the brand.
“I always go through the proper procedures, so I’ll through the bottom guy before I show some power and go to the top,” he said. “When I was starting they said I had to be grandfathered and have the store for many years before you get a Jordan account or a Nike account. So when I tried to go the normal way, I was getting some road blocks.”
All it took was the approval of Michael Jordan to push it through.
“I happen to be at a party that Jordan gave for his closest friends. Everybody was there, from the president of Jordan to the president of Nike. Out of nowhere Jordan screams, ‘Yo Joe,’” the rapper recalled. “Everybody shut up because this is Michael Jordan screaming and [he] said, ‘I’m going to your store. I’m going to be there.'”
MJ’s impromptu blessing at a party he was hosting opened all the doors for Up NYC. According to the Joe, Up NYC will be one of a handful of boutiques that will get every exclusive release, one of which will be dropping this coming Black Friday.
“Jordan personally co-signed it. He personally, publicly was like, yo this is my brother and let’s get it poppin',” he said.
A peek into Fat Joe’s personal sneaker collection will show you how deep his roots go in sneaker culture. He’s had a relationship with Jordan Brand for over 13 years and he owns the PEs to prove it.
Rare sneakers like his Eminem Air Jordan 4s customized with a Terror Squad logo on the heel tab or his “Kobe Bryant” Air Jordan 7s from his private stash will make up the centerpiece of Up NYC. In the middle of the store is a museum-style glass display that will showcase these and other one-of-ones from Joe’s collection.
The display won’t just show off Joe’s sneakers. The plan is to have it rotate from month to month with a different collector’s rarest pairs.
“I want to keep the kids engaged, so for the first two months I’ll be sharing my collection,” Joe said. “The next two months, we'll ask Carmelo Anthony, CP3, Spike Lee, or CC Sabathia. Different people that will bring out their collection for two months. We want them to bring sneakers that nobody got a chance to see.”
The retail store itself will carry footwear brands such as Jordan, Asics, Nike, and Timberland. For the grand opening of the store, Up NYC will be restocking a number of Air Jordan retros and collabs, but Fat Joe doesn’t want people to camp out if they plan on reselling.
“I know we’re going to sell these Air Jordans here and then ten seconds later they’re going to be at Flight Club,” Joe said. “I’m hoping that the line of people during the grand opening is really for the love of sneaker culture with kids that actually wear the shoes instead of reselling them.”
Up NYC opens on Nov. 5 and is located at 3806 Broadway, New York, NY.