On Saturday, newly launched sneaker cleaning and restoration company Refresh PGH hosted their first annual Pittsburgh Sneaker Convention at the August Wilson Center. From 1-8 p.m., upward of a thousand people filed up the stairs in the building on Liberty Avenue, where about 30 sneaker and clothing brand dealers had set-up booths to buy, sell, and trade with attendees. A shared interest and passion was evident ranging from the hardcore sneaker collectors to adolescent teenagers shopping for back-to-school shoes.
“I went to an urban high school where your shoes kind of defined you,” says Sean Devine, a Peabody High School grad and co-founder, along with schoolmate Baldwin Dawkins, of Refresh PGH. “Growing up you always wanted to have the newest Jordan’s, newest Barkley’s, basically whatever athlete you liked you wanted to have their shoes on your feet. You know, you thought it made you play better.”
While there were some moderately priced sneakers available, the hot commodity at an event such as this are mostly rare and retro sneakers. A pair of sneakers that are 15-20 years old and in great condition might cost a buyer several hundred or even thousand dollars. There are more current and newly released sneakers that can garner a similar price tag, as alternate color-ways and limited supply of a particular shoe can generate a high demand.
The idea to start Refresh PGH partially stemmed from Devine’s interest as a collector: “At a point you get to saying, 'Man, I’m spending thousands of dollars a year on these shoes, it’s time to start making some money back or making a profit off of it.’ So, what we want to do is make some money off of the actual services without exploiting the culture.”
The business started online, where it provided services such as sneaker cleaning, restoration, and consignment opportunities. A good response and growing demand has inspired continuing development for Refresh PGH. In the coming months, they’ll be opening a store on Penn Avenue in Garfield next to fellow Pittsburgh fashion-related start-up Daily Bread (which specializes in streetwear clothing).
Devine plans to bring the aforementioned sneaker culture of larger cities to Pittsburgh, while also applying some blue collar customer service to his business: “We’re gonna have a ‘wall of shoes,’ kind of like they have in Flight Club in New York and L.A. You’ll also be able to come and kick your shoes off, pay 20 bucks, and get them cleaned on the spot. We almost wanna be like a dry-cleaner for shoes.”
For services and updates related to Refresh PGH, interested parties can find them on Instagram and Twitter @RefreshPGH