Jay John Henry, manager of Royal Oak sneaker store Burn Rubber, has gotten calls from people ready to pay $2,000 to hold a pair. (JARRAD HENDERSON/Detroit Free Press)
(DETROIT FREE PRESS) -- Outside Burn Rubber, the Royal Oak sneaker boutique that plans to sell Kanye West's highly anticipated Nike Air Yeezy II Saturday morning at a 400% markup, a secondary economy flourishes amid the colorful camping chairs lined up on the sidewalk. The two dozen people -- mostly young men -- sell their spots in line or pay others to hold their place.
Some have been there since last Friday, waiting for the chance to pay $1,000 for $245 kicks.
Dariante Dubose, 21, a student who lives on Detroit's west side, arrived Tuesday and is fourth in line because he bought someone's spot for $400 to ensure he'll be able to buy his size, 9.
"My mom stays in my spot when I go home to shower for an hour," said the expert sneaker-waiter, who came equipped with his computer, iPhone and headphones, along with a zebra-print Snuggie, gummy bears and the book "A Feast for Crows." "I decrease my water intake. I've been here three times before, so I know what to do."
If people don't have proxies to stand in for them during a needed break, the group will often simply make note of the departure and hold the spot. For example, a man was allowed to leave to administer anti-seizure medication to his nephew. But others, like Keenan Hastings, who ironically works at Footlocker, wasn't taking any chances; the 21-year-old Auburn Hills resident took the week off work to wait in line -- and is No. 3 in the queue.
"It's a democracy," said store co-owner Roland Coit.
And it's capitalism. On eBay, a pair was pre-sold for $90,300.
Sneakerheads camping out before a new shoe "drops" isn't a new phenomenon. What makes this run of kicks new, though, is that it's a limited release and that the name on it doesn't belong to an athlete a la Jordans and LeBrons.
The Burn Rubber sneaker strangers have bonded. The store -- which has never sold a $1,000 pair before, a price dictated by the marketplace, according to manager Jay John Henry -- allowed the people in line to hang out in the air-conditioned store and charge their electronics. (Plan B involved running an extension cord off a city lamppost.) Bathroom breaks are taken at the nearby Coney Island or the restroom in the parking structure. Gemmayze Lebanese Kitchen dropped off free chicken, steak and falafel sandwiches.
"I want to make sure the boys get some chow," explained Justin Nellis, a line cook, who was helping promote the local restaurant's new lunch menu.
Henry has seen only the sealed box in the store that contains an unknown number of pairs. He plans to buy a pair for himself -- with no employee discount.
And they won't stay in the box or on display.
"I'm going to wear them and destroy them," he said, personally motivated by his love for sneakers and a collection of 200+ pairs. "Some people like designer shoes, how limited it is. Some people are Kanye West fans. They want everything he puts his hand on."
Bianca Deramo, a 20-year-old model from Detroit's east side, was one of two women in the gaggle. Because of some disagreements about the line, she could only estimate that she's 15th in line.
"I'm not going to be like other people and never wear them," she said. "I'll wear them, but keep them clean, in case I want to sell them. I'm not a big Kanye fan, but I like expensive shoes."
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