Steelers' Joe Haden has 2,000 'fire' sneakers to sell you

PITTSBURGH -- Joe Haden can use his closing speed twice this week -- chasing down passes for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and securing deals in his downtown Cleveland sneaker shop, The Restock, which undoubtedly will see a boost around Game 3 of the NBA Finals.

"The store is jumping," the ninth-year cornerback said. "People go in there right before the game trying to get Cavs stuff, LeBrons. It's a fun thing."

Haden didn't open a sneaker shop in 2014 as a low-risk side hustle. Haden and his business team hunt for rare shoe inventory with the ferocity of a corner blitz, using his seven years as a Cleveland Brown to revitalize a childhood passion.

The man knows sneakers. Growing up in Maryland, Haden recalls never having allowance or good-grades money left over because he'd blow it on fresh Jordans in the 4 a.m. sale lines of Shoe City.

Now 29, Haden has a personal stash that includes about 800 sneakers with enough flavorful colors to inspire a Baskin-Robbins franchise. But Haden estimates he has poured about $200,000 into his store after costs, salaries, build-out and the more than 2,000 sneaker pairs in the shop.

"I only keep fire shoes in there," Haden said.

The game is simple: Use connections to acquire rare but popular "fire" at reasonable prices. Restock obtains already-sold shoes as a "second-chance shop" of sorts, according to store manager Joe Wisniewski.

These pricey pairs don't come wholesale. Nike, Adidas and others have wised up, Haden said, noting the coveted, limited-release shoes are usually won through raffles then lost somewhere in a leather-and-nylon vortex.

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That's when Haden's team pounces, working with collectors who handle big bulk, tapping into online marketplaces and betting on collector's items appreciating in value.

"[Shoppers] have to go to the resales -- they have to come to us," Haden said. "I've got the Yeezys in there, and if Flight Club is selling them for $1,200, I'm selling mine for $900. I'm not tripping. I'd rather keep the rare inventory coming through than try to make a few extra dollars per shoe."

Haden relies heavily on his team, Wisniewski and Dave VanGleson, to handle the day-to-day business. Both are sneaker-heads whom Haden recruited because of their expertise, moving VanGleson's store from Cleveland's Coventry neighborhood to the downtown area.

Haden appears in the store often and handles marketing on bigger connections, but Wisniewski said the group tries to minimize Haden's involvement to alleviate any potential stress.

Haden's access to famous friends definitely helps. He took teammates Terrell Edmunds and Ryan Shazier into the shop in recent weeks. Cavs players frequent Restock, Wisniewski said.

Pointed out to him that many professional athletes have thrown money at failed car washes or restaurants, Wisniewski makes it clear.

"The Hadens are not your typical athlete businessmen," Wisniewski said of Joe and his family. "Very detailed and on top of things."

Haden has used part of his $82 million in career earnings as a Pro Bowl cornerback to launch Haden Properties, which runs various businesses, including a gym in his native Maryland and real estate.

Those ventures have done well, Haden said, so initially he didn't want to dump too much empty money into a shoe business. But the plan is working, so Haden sits back and savors the soles.

"I’m at that point now where I’m not reinvesting," Haden said. "What we’re making [in the store], that allows us to get more inventory and sell it."