Sneaker freak

Sly Peoples puts his pants on one leg at a time like everyone else. But he picks out his shoes first.

If shoes were ice cream, Sly Peoples’ Uptown boutique would be flavor central — the place to go for something different, something that would leave you with a bright tongue and some serious brain freeze.

Peoples, 28, often uses an ice cream analogy to describe how his Calhoun Square store, Status, came on to the Minneapolis sneaker scene.

“A lot of stores were just giving people chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, not wanting to take a chance on Rocky Road or something else like that,” Peoples said. “And it’s not because the people in Minneapolis didn’t want it, (stores) just didn’t think that the people wanted it. So we opened our shop and we gave the same chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, but with a twist to it — some other flavors.”

Since Status opened in 2005, those flavors have included a handpicked assortment of men’s and women’s sneakers from Nike, Reebok, Alife, Creative Recreation, Lacoste and other brands with prices ranging from $75 to $2,000. No, that is not a typo. Apparently, some shoe fanatics will plop down huge sums of cash for the right Nike Air Force 1s.

Peoples knows this. He knows shoes. And he knows there’s no other place in Minneapolis that offers quite the same thing he does.

That’s why after three years in a mall that has seen brighter days as far as retail performance goes, Status is doing more than just surviving — it’s growing. The boutique has even attracted some celebrity customers including former Minnesota Timberwolf Kevin Garnett and Minnesota Viking Adrian Peterson.

“Hell, Denny Hecker has been in here,” Peoples said with a laugh.

Peoples has been looking to move from the mall for a while and recently signed a lease for a space in the Lumen on Lagoon condominium building at Lagoon and Emerson avenues. He plans to move this month.

“For us, it makes more sense for us to kind of find our own kind of space, a space that we’re going to be in for years to come,” he said.

And Status is growing beyond Minneapolis. Peoples also opened a branch in Columbus, Ohio last May. Not bad for a guy who got into the sneaker business by chance less than a decade ago.

Peoples said he’s from South Carolina because that’s where he went to high school and college. His father was in the military, so Peoples’ childhood home was everywhere from Italy to Japan.

After graduating from Clemson University with a BA in financial management and a minor in accounting, Peoples landed a job at US Bank in Minneapolis. Then he happened to develop a relationship with someone who gave him the opportunity to be a buyer for a shoe store. He did that part-time for a while and, after a dose of inspiration from a shop he visited in Atlanta, he decided to set out on his own.

“It’s a lot more fulfilling to do your own thing than to work for someone else,” he said.

Plus, Peoples had a longtime fascination with footwear, though he said his was no different than any other kids’.

“Every kid loves shoes,” he said. “The new Jordans come out and you want them. Back then, you had the Bo Jacksons, the Patrick Ewings, all the new shoes — Pippens — you always want the newest kicks to come out.”

Peoples said he didn’t get new shoes often when he was young, but he took care of the ones he had — scrubbing the leather with a toothbrush if he had to. Today, he has roughly 250 pairs and he doesn’t play favorites.

“They’re like children,” he said. “I love them all.”

He doesn’t have room for all the shoes at his Plymouth, Minn. home, so he keeps some at the boutique.

Status is a simple, no-frills store that displays its laced offerings on neat gallery-style shelving. Orange is the dominant color, a throwback to Peoples’ alma mater. Custom Status shoes sit in a display case — Peoples works with a shoe company each year to make a new pair.

The boutique carries clothing as well, including Pharrell Williams’ Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream lines, which are only found at 27 stores worldwide, Peoples said.

He picks out everything individually, often choosing rare items that are hard to come by at other stores. And it’s all for a diverse clientele that ranges from 14-year-old girls to 50-year-old men, soccer moms to athletes to the guy looking for some new shoes for Friday night.

“With us, it’s about customer service and just [providing] a different environment,” Peoples said. “People come in our shop all the time and ask if it’s a Coast store; is it something from L.A. or something from New York, and we don’t think that it’s either. It’s its own style, its own flare. We try to give people something they normally don’t find at other places.”

Jon Goodman, who runs a Minnesota-based online sneaker-customization business called JGoods, said Peoples brought a new style to the Twin Cities that was missing before. Goodman worked with Peoples to make custom shoes for some big-name clients including former Minnesota Viking Michael Bennett.

“I think it was a great store to have put here,” Goodman, 21, said about Status.

Uptown Association President Thatcher Imboden, who works for local developer The Ackerberg Group, said Status is a destination business that adds to the vibrancy of the area.

Status intern Jessica Johnson, 22, said she inquired about working at the boutique after moving here from St. Louis in October for school.

“There’s not a store like this anywhere else in Minnesota,” she said.

She works at the store along with Peoples’ 22-year-old brother, Dontae, who shares his older sibling’s sneaker love and moved from South Carolina to be part of the business. A couple other part-time employees also work at the store.

The small Status family is eager to move into its new digs, which is roughly the same size, but situated in an area with plenty of street traffic. Peoples said he is planning a big opening ceremony in June that he hopes will include visits from celebrity guests.

Inventory at the new store might grow, but Peoples said his style would stay the same. He’ll still be serving up colorful scoops of uncommon deliciousness — if shoes were ice cream.

Reach Jake Weyer at 436-4367 or jweyer@mnpubs.com.