Flight Club Los Angeles sneaker store reopens after 2 years

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Since opening in 2006, Flight Club Los Angeles has always been more than just a consignment and retail store for sneakerheads and stockists.

It was a clubhouse and cultural center, a gallery where customers could experience some of the most famous shoes ever made. Friends met there to just hang out, undisturbed by the usual kind of sales staff buying and breaking. Flight Club has become one of the biggest draws to the North Fairfax Avenue streetwear row.

But then came March 2020 and the global COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns which closed all but essential outlets. In May, before Flight Club could reopen, thieves exploited civic upheavals around town, targeting high-end stores.

Flight Club was gutted, along with the psyches of some of its most avid fans.

“I’ve been to the neighborhood maybe once since and didn’t even want to walk past it,” said Kevin Gaspard, a longtime Flight Club client and streetwear designer who was a regular at the space. “It was so weird not being able to get in there. I stopped hanging out on Fairfax because it felt almost pointless.

More than two years later, the Los Angeles showcase for the GOAT Group sneaker and streetwear market is quietly reopening on Monday. General Manager Eddy Lu hopes the massive overhaul will not only restore the former Flight Club’s popularity, but go beyond it.

The interior of the renovated Flight Club space on North Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles.

(Wesley Lapointe/Los Angeles Times)

Lu wants the new Flight Club to spark a rejuvenation outside its walls for an area that looks little changed since 2020.

Although some businesses appear to be doing well, many storefronts still have their graffiti-adorned metal security reels firmly locked in place. Armed robbery is an ongoing concern in the commercial areas of Fairfax and Melrose.

“I can’t wait to go,” said Gaspard. “It will feel like the old playground is going back to what it was. I mean, a lot of things still haven’t been the same since COVID happened, but it’ll be nice to see Flight Club again because it’s definitely a staple in this community.

Lu recalls watching some of the media coverage of thieves walking away with armfuls of Flight Club merchandise and feeling “disappointed”. It was a slow time for the company. »

A man is holding a pair of shoes.

Flight Club sales lead Micah Gardner with a pair of 2006 Stash X Nike Air Max 95 sneakers.

(Wesley Lapointe/Los Angeles Times)

When GOAT Group bought Flight Club in 2018, it sent shockwaves through the sneakerhead cosmos.

Flight Club, after all, revolutionized sneaker retail with its original store in New York in 2005. It was a pioneer for collectors wishing to sell rare shoes on consignment and for buyers willing to wait in line. for hours to grab the next hot shoe during an exclusive product. drops.

Would buying by GOAT (meaning greatest of all time) be the same as allowing money changers into the temple?

Instead, the game felt more like a star player landing at the trade deadline.

The combo brought GOAT’s financial muscle — its latest funding round doubled the company’s valuation to $3.7 billion — and a rigorous product authentication process to Flight Club. And it brought Flight Club credibility and its passionate fanbase to GOAT, as well as the juggernaut’s first physical outlets online.

The pre-2020 Flight Club Los Angeles store was minimalist and modern. The walls were clad in light plywood and pegboard that carried shoes from floor to ceiling, like an art installation.

The new version also adopts a modern aesthetic, the product is king, but has pivoted to a complete industrial look. Plywood was replaced with concrete, steel and rebar. A sturdy scissor lift is ready to recover from out-of-reach kicks.

“Flight Club meant so much to the community” outside of its walls, Lu said. etc., and let’s put this in the store and just have this beautiful LA wedding with sneakers and Fairfax, ‘ just to say we’re back and better than before.

Shoes on a wall.

A collection of Nike Dunk shoes on display at Flight Club.

(Wesley Lapointe/Los Angeles Times)

The only thing left of the old store is the so-called centerpiece, a long rectangular seating area where friends gathered and customers tried on shoes.

GOAT representatives were tight-lipped when it came to discussing the details of an addition: noticeably tighter security, with better entry protection and fewer ways to enter the store.

GOAT representatives also declined to disclose how much was lost in 2020 and how much was covered by insurance. As a gesture of goodwill, Flight Club members whose shoes were in the store for resale have been refunded, the company said.

From a financial perspective, GOAT Group did not need to reopen the Los Angeles store, Lu said.

Digital transactions have skyrocketed during the pandemic, and more than $2 billion worth of merchandise was sold on Goat.com and FlightClub.com last year. The platforms have over 40 million members and over 700,000 sellers in 170 countries.

“The growth in sales and membership has been phenomenal,” Lu said. access FlightClub.com online.”

But the plan was still to reopen the store.

“Sneakers are such a tactile experience,” Lu said. “It’s a physical product and something you can’t replicate online. And that’s why I think it’s so important and valuable to have that in-person experience, to really get all the feels and smells of the store.

Despite the cosmetic changes, Lu said, the store will remain the one that welcomes people to hang out and learn more about the world of sneakers.

“Traditional retail stores are all about the sales transaction,” Lu said. “We never felt that about Flight Club.

“In some ways, it’s like going to a museum. It’s an experience where you get that tactile feel of the shoes that you’ve seen many times online, but now you can live it and breathe it, you can feel it. You can try it. You can really discover and see the subtle details of these sneakers. These are products that so many people are passionate about in real life. That’s what keeps people in the store.

Shoes.

Flight Club displays original Nike Jordan sneakers from 1985.

(Wesley Lapointe/Los Angeles Times)

An entire wall of the store is devoted to the main collection, with Air Jordans and Air Jordan collabs, a section for Nike Dunks, and a Yeezys section.

Another space is dedicated to the rarest and most exclusive so-called Grail shoes, which could include the $50,000 Air Yeezy 2 Sp Red October, the $30,000 Nike MAG Back to the Future sneakers and an Eminem X Carhartt x Air. Jordan 4 Black Chrome at $30,000.

At the back of the store is a special exhibit section featuring pairs from the full line of 1985 Jordan 1s, loaned for the reopening by avid sneaker collector Ryan Scott, who owns over 500 pairs of shoes .

The store will also feature Nike AF 1 shoes made in collaboration with the late artist Virgil Abloh and designer Louis Vuitton.

Special artwork was commissioned for the store, including a mural by famed graffiti artist Stash, who said he was thrilled to be part of Flight Club’s return.

“Flight Club was and still is one of the most amazing retail concepts, in my opinion,” he said. “I wish I had Flight Club when I was younger.”

A man stands next to a shoe in a shop window.

Eddy Lu is co-founder and managing director of GOAT Group. Lu said Flight Club will remain a store that invites people to go out and experience the world of sneakers.

(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

The reopening was a curious mix of spy-grade silence, in which it surprisingly wasn’t leaked on social media, and something video gamers might call an Easter egg hunt. All around the Flight Club Los Angeles location, there were hints that something was about to happen.

At the northwest corner of North Fairfax Avenue and Rosewood Avenue, for example, was a series of large posters showing the progress of an artist painting a mural. The artist was Stash painting the mural which will be on a wall inside the store.

Up on the roof of the same building, it looked like someone had done the ultimate insult to the store’s memory by graffitiing the entire bottom half of a huge Flight Club billboard.

It wasn’t vandalism. It was done with a purpose, again by Stash. The same symbol will be sold on a sleeve of Flight Club t-shirts commemorating the reopening.

One person who can’t wait for that to happen is Greg Plotkin, 52, a film editor whose last job was working on the upcoming “Secret Headquarters” movie. Plotkin is a lifelong sneakerhead who shared his passion for shoes with his sons Jake, 16, and Lucas, 14.

“There were always great shoes that my sons had never seen except in pictures, like once there was a very rare pair of Yeezys,” Plotkin said. “And he was allowed to hold them, which sets Flight Club apart from other stores. Lucas just rocked, and from there it became his favorite store.

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