A trip to Urban Necessities means wall-to-wall shelves lined with Jordans, Nikes and Adidas on either side of the store. Smooth beats bumps overhead. Customers examine each collectable and walk out with bags of multicolored kicks with leather, cork or suede bodies. Owner Jaysse Lopez, who is often seen sporting a Supreme T-shirt and an ultra rare pair of matching kicks, greets each patron with a “What’s up?” “Good to see you” or “How’s it going?”
Located at the Boulevard Mall, Urban Necessities is one of the most successful sneaker resale shops in the world, having been featured on street fashion websites from Complex to Hypebeast. But Lopez hasn’t always been known as the sneakerhead who totes over $100,000 cash to sneaker conventions or sports $6,000 jackets—realities learned from his YouTube videos and Instagram posts. The entrepreneur faced numerous hardships to create a lucrative empire and a presence for Las Vegas in the sneaker community.
“Our first six months in business, I didn’t have any neighbors. The first 10 months in business, they wouldn’t even turn the lights on in the hallway,” Lopez says of Urban Necessities’ original location, which was nestled in a corner of the mall that rarely saw foot traffic. “Where my current store is, if you were standing outside of it and look to where my old store was you couldn’t see anything down there. It was very sketch. We weren’t even in the directory. They just assumed we were going to fail from the very beginning.”
But Urban Necessities succeeded. The proof is in the shop’s constant bustle and its massive online presence: 322,000 Instagram followers and more than 125,000 YouTube subscribers. It’s brought in customers from around the world, including celebrities such as Usher and Celine Dion.
As a New Jersey “kid from the hood,” Lopez knew what it meant to struggle. He recalls Section 8 housing, moving from house to house and school to school, as well as purchasing shoes on payment plans.
“I got my first pair of name brand sneakers at 9,” he says. “My mom put them on layaway. They were $110. It took her two months to pay them off. By the time I wore them they didn’t fit, but I wore them until the midsoles were gone. They were Infrared Air Max 90s.”
At the age of 14 he got his first job in retail. He spent every dime on shoes and clothes. “I was caught up in this world that these rappers talked about, and I wanted to live that lifestyle. I couldn’t rap, I wasn’t that athletic, so from the very beginning, I knew my way out was going to be helping other people,” Lopez, now 38, says.
After a few years of working retail, Lopez joined the military before coming to Las Vegas to be closer to his daughter. Four years ago, he lost his job and was forced to sleep on a friend’s couch and, at one point, in a park. With nothing but time on his hands, Lopez figured he’d turn to what he knew best: sneakers.
“There are lots of people that want sneakers, have money to spend, but don’t have the time to get them. So I started offering, basically, my time to put in the effort for people to get what they wanted,” he says.
When Lopez spotted a pair of Nike “Area 72” Barkley Posites, a shoe he had seen three to four months prior to the release date, it drove him nuts. “I figured, if I’m this crazy about this shoe, there’s got to be other people that are going to be crazy about it,” he says. He bought 19 pairs and sold them all in six hours. He realized he was on to something.
Since Urban Necessities’ opening in September 2014, Lopez has had some scares, including almost having to close the store. Through it all he’s pushed himself to ignore fear, negative opinions and keep working.
“Just because one way doesn’t work, it doesn’t mean that’s the end. You have to find creative ways to pick up foot traffic,” Lopez says.
Lopez uses that creativity to give back to the community. He’s held numerous charity events at the shop. Recently, he raised $3,500 for hurricane victims in Puerto Rico via a tattoo charity event. Currently, he’s raffling high-value sneakers—customized pairs of Adidas NMDs and Adidas EQT Support 93/17—for $20 tickets to raise money for the victims of 1 October. He’s also hosting a canned food drive for the Thanksgiving season. Participants can bring dry or canned goods to the shop, where they will be distributed to a nonprofit in the city. His constant support for his city earned him a nod from Vegas Seven earlier this year when he was named “Best Sneakerhead for the Community.”
“We try to step up and help the community as much as we can,” Lopez says. “If I don’t give back to the community, how do I expect to provide for my family?”
Photos by Krystal Ramirez
Soon, the rest of the world may know what Las Vegans and sneakerheads already do. Lopez is working on a reality TV show that showcases his backstory and his interactions at the shop. He hopes to inspire and spread awareness of the sneaker community. “Think of it like Pawn Stars, but with sneakers,” Lopez says.
Viewers will also be introduced to his business partner and wife, Joanie Lopez, who has been a part of the journey since the first pair of Barkley Posites. Joanie serves as the CFO of the company, handling all the books and records. Together the pair travels across the globe, not only to attend conventions and meet their online customers, but to scope out the market for a potential expansion.
“Vegas is great. It’s a great hub; we’ve got a lot of tourists coming through, but there’s also a lot of cities out there that are hungry for this,” Joanie says. “We want to be a part of quenching that thirst.”