Where was your head at when you opened Bodega in 2006—what was missing from the retail scene in Boston?
Jay Gordon: Very, very little was happening retail-wise.
Dan, one of my partners, was doing semi-legal loft parties and I was doing stuff with him. And [my other partner] Oliver had a really good company that was helping graffiti artists make money. They were just very creative, interesting guys who knew a lot of the right people. So Bodega, we built the first store with just our friends. There was no phone, no sign, totally hidden. But the response was amazing. I was driving down to New York every Monday. I spent all day Tuesday buying trash bags with T-shirts and hoodies and whatever from random little New York City streetwear startups and then filling up my car and driving back to Boston and stocking the store for the next week. It was nuts. We didn’t have a lot of sneakers to start with. The sneaker accounts were a lot harder to get than the clothing accounts.
The Globe did a story on sneaker culture when we first opened, not knowing what they were talking about. It was just the beginning of "What’s going on?" and "Can you believe people buy sneakers for $1,000?" Sneaker collecting at the time was still just for freaks. Anyway, the front cover was a picture of the Gucci Dunk, which we had gotten from a collector. We were just selling other people’s sneakers on consignment at that time.
So after the piece comes out, this guy named Frank Delegra who was the head of Nike New England came to the store. He was just a big, intimidating, tough guy. And he tells me, "I run Nike New England and you guys don’t have a Nike account. You’ll never sell Nikes." So I yell downstairs, "Dan, who have you been calling at Nike?" And he said, "Some asshole named Frank." So then I was like, "What’s his phone number?" and he rattled it off because he had been calling every day. And the guy saw and was like, "Well, I’ve never gotten any of your messages."
And was he flattered at least?
Gordon: Yeah, at least he knew we were doing the right stuff. And the build out was right and everything was good. So we had a Nike account a month later. We got lucky.