STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — For Andrew Rosenthal, sneakers are a form of contemporary art. Calling collector-worthy shoes an important part of pop culture and a unique aspect of urban fashion, the Great Kills resident uses words like “iconic” and “aesthetically pleasing” to describe his kicks.
An expert in identifying hyperstrikes (a shoe with extremely limited quantities) and rare special project releases (those only made available at specific retailers), Rosenthal has spent the better part of a decade amassing an assortment of uncommon Air Jordan’s and other high profile shoes. And for the past two-and-a-half years, the budding entrepreneur has been sharing his sneaker passion with residents throughout the five boroughs.
“I think there is a big misconception surrounding the sneaker culture,” Rosenthal said recently from inside the stockroom of The Sole Broker, the Grant City shop he founded in 2019. “There are a lot of people who don’t think it’s a viable business, an older generation that doesn’t understand why 20- and 30-somethings are obsessed with these shoes. But it’s a lucrative pastime. And if you’re not a collector you probably take the whole thing for granted.”
The shoes Rosenthal is talking about are coveted. Legendary. Some are even recognized by storied auction houses like Sotheby’s, garnering bids upward of $100,000 because of their cultural significance.
That’s why the young collector has made a second career out of securing obscure shoes for a range of clients. And at his store, he’s building a balanced stock of both rare and mainstream sneakers.
“Staten Island has a very particular sneaker demographic,” he noted. “It’s different than the rest of the city, because consumers here are more informed. They know what they want and they know how much they should be paying for it. In Staten Island, if they like it, they buy it. So it’s my job to fill the store with the shoes that borough residents like.”
Carrying everything from Air Jordan and Supreme to Yeezy and VLONE, The Sole Broker buys, sells and trades, offering consignment services at an 80/20 split. He sells both new and pre-owned, and features more than 300 different items on his website, with sneakers ranging in price from $50 to $1,250 (Nike SB Dunk “Grateful Dead,” originally released in 2020 and retailed for $110). The store also has a robust online presence.
“The market is thriving,” Rosenthal said. “Some people buy these shoes to display them, others buy to re-sell, and then there are those who wear them. We cater to each and every one of those consumers.”
Rosenthal, a registered nurse, said sneakers were always a hobby. He got his start in the business 10 years ago, inspired by his brother, Dylan, who had been seeking sneakers for clients for years.
“I bought my first pair of Jordan’s in 2009, and while I wouldn’t say I loved shoes from the start — it’s always been a big part of me,” Rosenthal said, revealing he currently has 50 pairs in his own well-curated personal collection. “I’ve always been a collector. My father used to collect baseball cards and comics — I feel like he passed that down to me. I have one pair that is worth $20K. I never thought I’d be in the position to acquire such shoes, but it’s all about being in the right place at the right time and making good relationships. You sort of fall down a rabbit hole when you’re doing this, but with each purchase you become more informed and knowledgeable about your product.”
And after building a strong business on Staten Island, Rosenthal opened a second location in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in 2020. Located across the street from Supreme skate shop on Grand Street and called The Sole Broker BK, the store had more than a half-million dollars in sales during its first year in business, according to Rosenthal.
“Working hard and opening a business in my hometown was a huge accomplishment,” he said. “But earning brand recognition and opening a second store was a pinnacle moment for us. We’re still a work-in-progress, but I’m extremely proud of what we’ve done.”
Rosenthal credited his success to the personal vibe he projects in both of his stores — he said he believes customer service is paramount, and he treats his staff and clients like family. He also respects his shoppers’ buying habits and works with them to deliver the best price possible.
“We’re a small Staten Island business and we have that mom-and-pop vibe,” Rosenthal said. “I’m a consumer myself, and that’s how I approach running my business. What we’re doing here can’t be replicated.”
The son of two self-made entrepreneurs — his mother bottles and sells her own line of salad dressings and his father owns a plumbing service company — Rosenthal said he was inspired by their work ethic when deciding to launch The Sole Broker. Extremely selective in the shoes he buys, favoring sought-after Air Jordan’s and Yeezy’s, Rosenthal said he is always on the hunt for samples and collaborations — shoes that were only developed in small numbers.
Like the Scarr’s Pizza Air Force 1 Low, which were designed by sneaker don DJ Clark Kent and Scarr Pimentel, founder of the legendary Scarr’s Pizza on the Lower East Side, in 2019. Only 48 pairs of the pizzeria-inspired kicks were made, all of which were gifted to friends and family. When one of the pairs resurfaced online, it was snapped up and eventually auctioned by Sotheby’s for more than $121,000.
“You have car collectors who like older, vintage cars and there’s those who buy newer models — it’s the same way with shoes,” Rosenthal said. “Some buy general release — a mass-produced Air Jordan — but others choose to spend their money on something more iconic, like a shoe that MJ wore himself.”
The shoe Rosenthal wears virtually every day? The Jordan 4 Retro Bred, better known as “Black Cement.”
“They’re versatile,” he said.
Rosenthal is in the process of renovating his Grant City store, adding room for more storage, since the demand for his product has grown exponentially. In the future he said he hopes to expand the brand even further.
“Sometimes I can’t believe how fast this business has grown,” he concluded. “It’s my goal to keep building upon it in the future.”