Nike Collector Jordy Geller Creates His Own ‘ShoeZeum’ [VIDEO]
Jordy Geller and I have something in common. When he was a kid his parents refused to buy him a pair of Air Jordan’s. “Too Expensive,” was the reason his parents gave him. Like many other kids that was the same reasoning I got from mine. Well, today Jordy Geller has his Air Jordans–and about 2,000 other pairs of shoes on display in what he calls the “ShoeZeum.”
It is a 9,000-square-foot warehouse in a completely anonymous location in Old Town San Diego, CA. Jordy doesn’t have an exact count of exactly how many shoes are on display but speculates that the number is definitely over 2,000.
But there is a catch.
The only brand of shoes you will see is Nike, and Geller has created the ultimate tribute. From every pair of Air Jordans EVER to ultra-rare Nike shoes owned by the late DJ/Sneakerhead DJ AM, Geller displays his collection of shoes with complimentary posters, pics, props and other random bits of nostalgia.
“This” is a Disneyland for “sneakerheads” and fans of pop culture, an almost overwhelming display of sneakers arrayed on shelves and tables, organized according to genre, sport, year, color, design and level of innovation.
Geller started a multi-million dollar shoe selling business on eBay called Sneak’s Kicks in 1999 with a $300 investment. He worked out of his apartment while going to law school and then working on his masters. He would scoop up shoes from liquidation sales, swap meets and overstocks and then flip them on the web for a profit. Soon, his business grew so big he had to move into a warehouse that now houses the “ShoeZeum.”
It has been open to the public for a little over a month, but after July, Geller’s lease will run out on the warehouse and he is thinking about moving the ShoeZeum to LA, Oregon (birthplace of Nike) Las Vegas or making the collection a traveling show.
A tour reveals the mother load of Nike facts laced with pop culture references, including:
• All but a handful of shoes in the collection are new, never-worn models in Geller’s own shoe size: 11 to 12. All but a few are shrink-wrapped for protection.
• Geller has personal items scattered throughout, tying in his love of Nikes, Michael Jordan, eBay and his inspirations. “I wanted to tell my story through shoes,” he says. Those include copies of Geller’s California attorney ID card — No. 234523 (the numbers Jordan wore in the NBA, in order); his bronzed baby shoes that sit next to ultra-expensive copper-colored Air Foamposities; the shoes he wore for his law school graduation and wedding; and even the dream car of his youth, a 1973 Ford Bronco (purchased on eBay) that’s covered by Denver Broncos gear and sits next to a shoe illustrated by a SoCal freeway map.
• Every prop or toy in the ShoeZeum came from a local swap meet, a tribute to the first pair of Air Jordans he sold on eBay — found at a swap meet.
• Between 2,000 to 2,500 square feet of the 9,000 total is devoted to Jordan. Geller has every Air Jordan model ever released, including those from his forgettable Washington Wizards era, arrayed in chronological order. “This is where the sneaker collectors lose their minds,” he says.
• Displays at the front of the museum, geared “to captivate everyone” he says, feature cartoon characters, superheroes, San Diego theme parks and animals.
• The Air running shoe line — models from 1979 to 2011 — is arranged atop a long conveyor belt. It’s the shoe Geller says is responsible for his obsession with Nike. His dad was a marathoner and “roped me into this, taking me to sneaker stores” to marvel at the Air’s revolutionary, visible air bubbles.
• Shoes are displayed on racks by type (running, basketball, skateboarding, cross training) and in chronological order. Not every Nike shoe is represented; just the ones Geller believes are notable or innovative.
• Tucked away in the back of the first floor is a display of specialty shoes: hiking boots, aqua socks, sand volleyball shoes and flip-flops with the air bubble. Andre Agassi’s colorful tennis line sits next to the bland, white shoes of his rival, Pete Sampras, but the shoes face away from each other.
• Upstairs, in the old employee break room, is an homage to all things about kicking back: shoes with themes about reggae, hemp, beer and Hawaii.
• Wild Yellow Submarine shoes for the Beatles, an Eminem collection and “fallen heroes” shoes — for Milli Vanilli, MC Hammer, Pee-Wee Herman and Vanilla Ice — are in the music collection, next to the TV/film display that includes shoes designed to look like Ferris Bueller’s vest and jacket and an “Anchorman” shoe that shows off Will Ferrell’s colorful movie tie as the tongue.
• Upstairs, in a place of honor, are Geller’s favorite shoes, a red, white and blue pair of track spikes designed for Oregon runner Steve Prefontaine in 1973: the Pre Montreal. Prefontaine was going to wear this model in the 1976 Olympics, but died in a car accident in 1975. This pair, slightly worn (but not by Prefontaine), was found in an abandoned storage locker in New Mexico. Someone bid $5 for the contents, discovered the shoes and put them up for bid on eBay. Geller’s winning bid was $3,383. “A shoe like this, you could just never find it,” Geller says. “This is like the early, early, early days of Nike.”