Located in an area of NYC known more for its Latin Sabor (taste) and distinct culture, Nostylgia brings a new flavor to “The Heights” helping to spice up the area’s already vibrant atmosphere.
I first stepped foot inside Nostylgia about a half a year ago. A good friend of mine, and fellow sneakerhead, had been telling me about a new sneaker shop that had recently opened in Washington Heights. This alone being amazing to me, I had to see it. We took the trip uptown to Dyckman and after a very short walk we were there. Upon entering, I was immediately impressed by the design of the shop. Having been in many shops around the city (and a few around the country), I had come to expect a certain type of layout and design from a sneaker boutique. As you will see in the pictures and read in the follwing interview, the design of the shop is not at all what one (or at least myself) would expect. After properly inspecting the design of the shop, I was then immediately impressed with the customer service. Jason, co-founder of Nostylgia and this articles interviewee, was very knowledgable, patient, and helpful. We had a long conversation about kix and life, he made me feel comfortable, I knew that he was one of us.
I invite all of my readers to come with me on a virtual trip through Nostylgia.
KATC: Letâ€™s start at the very very beginning, when was Nostylgia founded?
Jason: Nostylgia was founded officially in June of 2004 with the launching of our website, www.Nostylgia.com. The concept however was founded some months earlier sitting in my car with my partner Edgar, â€œbrainstormingâ€ on our future.
KATC: What made you want to create Nostylgia? Was it a dream of yours to own a shop?
Jason: As far as Nostylgia being a life long dream, I have to be honest, I didnâ€™t grow up always saying to myself that I was going to own a sneaker shop. Iâ€™ve always been very creative, had a real strong interest in fashion and of course sneakers, and most importantly I would say for both me and my partner, weâ€™ve always had a thing for business; so I guess in someway this must have all meant we were meant to open an exclusive sneaker boutique. I guess the first time I really ever considered an idea like
Nostylgia though, was after my partner put me on to his brotherâ€™s secret kickâ€™s, shop, Nort sometime around 2003. I went in there and saw all these â€œexclusiveâ€ sneakers, many of which I had in my own many of which I had in my own collection and or knew where to find for a lot cheaper than the outrageous prices they were charging at the time. I had even been buying crazy vintage kicks for about 3 or 4 years just to wear. As the time passed, I just starting copping more and more kicks that I knew had some sort of collectable appeal, this time with the intention on selling them sometime in the future. I remember I bought a bunch of vintage deadstock Air Raids from Ebay for like $80 and I
had always bought Jordans for myself but never wore them.
KATC: I remember when Nort was a â€œsecretâ€ as well. So it is obvious that both you and your partner are sneaker heads. How did you both make that transition from being consumers to saying to yourselves, â€œWe are going to open up a shopâ€.
Jason: So I had been saving all these exclusive kicks for a while and Edgar and I had been mulling over the whole idea that Nort had going on until that faithful night of â€œbrainstormingâ€. Although we were â€œjustâ€ brainstorming we both made it clear that we were very serious. We were 21 and 22 at the time and we had nothing to lose. Days after we applied for a simple DBA and it was on from there. A shop was always an ultimate goal but we started online because we knew we could start small. We put up some cash for the website and launched it in June 2004 with the sneakers I had in my stash and small
selection of over seas exclusives we had been able to get with our early connections. The store became a serious idea in the winter of 2004 when, honestly, the website had grown a bit but really wasnâ€™t making a major impact, and we just said to ourselves that â€œscared
money donâ€™t make moneyâ€ and we just decided, store it must be if we were really serious about this Nostylgia thing. We knew having an actually storefront would legitimize Nostylgia, we were in essence playing games online and it was time to take it to the next level.
KATC: I am sure both you and I would agree that perhaps the most important part of starting a business and establishing a brand is the name. The name Nostylgia. What does it mean? How did it come about?
Jason: The name Nostylgia takes off the English word â€œNostalgiaâ€ which by Websterâ€™s definition means, â€œa wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable conditionâ€. Our variation of the word was inspired by the continuing retro trend and means, according to us, â€œa wistful or excessively sentimental
yearning for return to or of some past fashion styles or new styles that may one day evoke the same feeling of the pastâ€. We also believe that Nostylgia the way we use it, has and always will be categorized by the sneakers that we wear.
KATC: Now before we get into the specifics about the shop let me take step back for a sec. I know a little about you personallyâ€¦and I know that you have a degree from NYU! I am sure that opening a sneaker shop is probably not one of the most popular things that NYU grads do, how did your education at NYU help/not help in creating the shop?
Jason: I do believe the education I received at NYUâ€™s Stern Business school was very good and somewhat helpful in certain aspects of the business, however, I feel it wasnâ€™t my school education that really made apt to opening my own sneaker shop. In my opinion, school prepares you to be a worker bee. Neither Edgar nor I had much of an affinity for working for others and it was both of our street smarts that really guided us through most of the business. If anything, I really thank NYU for exposing me to the world of BIG MONEY business and messing up by allowing someone from Ghetto Y.O.
to see that all it takes is a good idea and a lot of determined work to make it as big as you want to be.
KATC: Shout out to Y.O., even if it isnâ€™t technically part of NYC. Back to the shop. Through my own experience I know that beginning a business can take long and it takes a thick set of nerves to go through. How was your experience at the beginning? How long did it take to design/open the shop? Any roadblocks? Any setbacks? What did your family and friends think about your idea?
Jason: The road was definitely a bumpy one when it came to actually opening the store. On the concept end we really had no problems. We knew the style we were going for, we really had a good idea that we wanted to be uptown, and we even found a place pretty quickly. The lease itself took six painstaking months to get, thanks for nothing Apuzzi Reality. During that time we were really anxious, so much so, I actually drew the whole store layout to scale right down to the brick. My mom was of course getting antsy and it
definitely was looking like to our friends, that all the hype we were making was all gonna be bull. To finally sign the lease I had to search out the landlords personally and make a strong appeal to the man in charge that we were dead serious about what we were doing and luckily it worked. The store was a wreck when we first got there and as with all renovation projects we had a new problem everyday but anything beat sitting at home waiting for the lease for all that time so we just kept forging ahead. We were also blessed with a contractor, a boy of mine, who simply looked at my drawing and no less than blessed the store with completely custom work with me and Edgar by his side. We learned a lot about construction in 3 months.
KATC: Continuing on the design of the shop, which I love, take me through the design of the interior of the shop.
Jason: We knew we were uptown. We knew we had our own territory in which we could differentiate ourselves from our downtown mates. We knew the hood. We knew the icons in the hood that related to sneakers, most famously the sneakers on an electrical wire, and we just built off that idea. Bricks, then fire escapes, then cement and park benches, and Iâ€™ve got some more up my sleeve for the future. Aside from the fact that we really feel the design exemplifies what weâ€™re about we also feel that the design itself will attract the right fashion labels and designers who will hopefully realize that weâ€™re more than just simple peddlers.
KATC: Now you mention being uptown, I am sure you would agree that the shop is located in a part of NYC that is not known for sneaker culture. What made you open the shop up in the legendary Washington Heights?
Jason: Like I said before we were happy to have our own territory in which to differentiate
ourselves in. Downtown has become super saturated with sneaker boutiques and
fashion boutiques in general. Everything is almost monotonous down there. Aside
from that weâ€™re really uptown guys with a bit of downtown style, and coming
from Yonkers we know how to fit in the hood. Uptown is the home of the hustlers. Weâ€™re on Dyckman St., and to most people, who know whatâ€™s what, know about Dyckman. I see more 745â€™s and big bodied Benzâ€™s up here than anywhere else in the city, so you know thereâ€™s plenty of money flowing through the uptown streets. Ironically though, Inwood, where weâ€™re specifically located, west of Broadway is also New York Cityâ€™s next spot on the rise. Weâ€™ve got a lot of yuppies moving into the neighborhood, along with a lot of businesses catering to their needs, which we feel we do as well. We know corporate America is soon to follow. In 5-10 years people from Westchester will come to spend a day Downtown, Uptown. Grab some Spanish food, check out the parks, and of course do some shopping. Weâ€™re hoping weâ€™re right on all this and we got in while the getting was good.
KATC: Many people feel that the presence of a certain type of store can affect change within its surrounding area. Have you noticed a change in the sneaker culture of The Heights since you opened? Do you feel the shop has effected the community in any way?
Jason: For sure. Itâ€™s crazy actually seeing more and more dudes from the Heights rocking exclusive kicks. I mean they were always out there, I mean who in the hood isnâ€™t in some way into kicks? A lot of them go to the spots downtown, but for the most part they always come check us on the regular, especially the dudes who are always in the neighborhood anyway. We put a lot of them on to the exclusive thing. I mean they knew they were out there but we take the time to let people know whatâ€™s what with these sneakers. Weâ€™re not just going to take $150 for a pair of AF1â€™s and not let you know why they worth the extra money. You know we always try to show love the best we can so I
think weâ€™re definitely starting to keep the hood fresh in the Heights.
KATC: Has the community shown love back?
Jason: Most definitely. From the dudes who chill on the block, who always look out for us when the ticket writers are coming, to the people from all the other parts of the heights, and all over NY and even recently some tourists, weâ€™ve gotten nothing but love. Weâ€™re really consumers at heart, and we know what these sneakers mean to people, so we really try to do our best for everyone who walks into the store, especially the young cats who come to look at the same pair for weeks, to finally save up them, they know theyâ€™ll always get a deal. Weâ€™ve even put in a couple bucks from our own pocket before. So basically the love is very mutual.
KATC: Besides the location, what separates Nostylgia from other sneaker/clothing boutiques?
Jason: Basically what separates us from all the other boutiques are all the things Iâ€™ve mentioned so far. I think it stems a lot from how Edgar and I are as people and where we come from. We really try to focus on our customers. 99% of our customers come in and give us pounds and they know â€œthey gonna get hooked up at Nostylgiaâ€. Our products, our design, our location, and most of all our attitude is what definitely separates us from the other boutiques. Aside from that, we are also the only NY boutique that I know of
with a fully operational website, offering the same product line as in our store. Weâ€™re also launching a new and improved site within the month, incorporating more of the same customer service that weâ€™re able to give in the store.
KATC: If one of my readers wanted to get â€œhooked up at Nostylgiaâ€ what should they expect to find there?
Jason: Our shop carries many exclusive Nikes, including the whole SB series, Euro releases, Asia releases, limited editions, and a small vintage selection. We also carry a growing selection of exclusives from other brands including Adidas, Puma, Converse, Asics, and Adidas. We have a nice offering of trendy apparel, and we cater to both men and women.
KATC: Of all the heat that you carry, what is the best selling sneaker in the shop?
Jason: The best selling sneaker in the shop is hands down the uptown classic, the Nike Air Force I in every flavor imaginable. In Yonkers weâ€™ve always called them â€œHarlemsâ€ but no matter what you call them, they fly off the shelves. If youâ€™ve got a size 9-10 you better get them fast because theyâ€™re not going to be around too long!
KATC: Now that you have the shop and the site running pretty smoothly, what else is in store for Nostylgia in the immediate future?
Jason: Nostylgia is so new we feel the skyâ€™s the limit. For the immediate future weâ€™re diversifying our product line. Weâ€™ll be offering an array of Nikeâ€™s, all exclusive, yet all at different price levels so that everyone can feel exclusive. Weâ€™ll also be carrying more selections from other makers, such as Adidas, Puma, Asics, and Vans. You can expect our clothing selection to grow as well. Weâ€™ll be carrying the latest Nike SB gear as always and adding some exclusive European Nike gear. We are getting way more UpperPlayground, and hopefully some more independent labels on the come up. Most excitingly for us, will be our Nostylgia clothing line which will start off with some sick, original t-shirts and polos for the spring, all of which will be limited edition pieces. And we canâ€™t forget about the Ladies, who I have to apologize to for a weak selection up until now. You know us guys can never understand females so itâ€™s taking us a little while, but I think weâ€™ve got it now. Weâ€™re completely restocking our ladies selection with nothing but funky classics from Nike, Converse, Puma, Adidas, and Asics. Weâ€™ll also have a growing selection of Ladies vintage tees, and of course we hope to attract some inspired designers on the rise. This will all be brought out with several events we plan to get involved with in the beginning of spring. We opened up in the winter, the worst time of the year, so we canâ€™t wait for the sun to come out so we can really shine. Everything will be announced on our new website which will also be launching very soon.
KATC: It seems as though you have a good plan for the near future but what should we expect from Nostylgia in the distant future?
Jason: The skyâ€™s the limit. We really want to use our local customer service and unique atmosphere and product line to make Nostylgiaâ€™s name known. We plan to really get involved in designing and producing our own line of clothing. We try to take things day by
day but anything is possible. A second store? A third store? Opening up overseas? Maybe going public somehow one day, who knows? All I know is that Edgar just turned 24 and Iâ€™ll be 24 in September so weâ€™ve got nothing but time ahead of us and plenty of drive and energy to keep growing.
KATC: You are a sneakerhead, give us some of your predictions for sneaker culture in ’06.
Jason: The sneaker culture just keeps getting bigger. For 2006 I think more and more people will just become involved in some facets or another. Whether itâ€™s a customer buying theyâ€™re first pair of exclusives or itâ€™s some huge corporate label doing a new crossover project with some little boutique, hopefully for us at Nostylgia the sneaker culture is just going to keep getting more and more popular. I think the trend will definitely continue to remain hot throughout the whole year and for an indefinite amount of time because the addictive nature of exclusive sneakers which will make it a much more long-lasting trend than most others.
KATC: Along the same lines, what is your view of the current status of sneaker culture and how does Nostylgia fit into it?
Jason: With the sneaker culture continuing to grow, oneâ€™s got to think that no matter how strong the trend is, like all fashion trends eventually the bubble has got to burst at some point. I mean the sneaker culture is starting to get very commercial, eventually it has to reach a level of overall saturation where nothing is seen as exclusive anymore, because everyone is wearing something exclusive. I think this time is some time away but by then Nostylgia will have rode the wave of the sneaker boom and hopefully have made a strong name and image for ourselves. Although the boom weâ€™re experiencing now will of course fade, the need for fashionable sneakers will last forever. By that time we will have our feet firmly planted with our own clothing line. Our style will never change and the attention to customers will always follow us, no matter where the sneaker culture goes or what we do, and I feel that only the boutiques who have taken that extra step out of the direct sneaker game, no pun intended, will be the ones with the best chance of survival in the long run.
I would like to thank Jason for taking the time out sit down with me and offer my readers a piece of his insight and experiences. Nostylgia is huge part of New York City’s sneaker culture. I wish them the best of luck now and in the future.
Flix: Gun Orachantara.