When Ebony and I were in the early stages of planning out the relaunching of our blog, she proposed an idea of showcasing normal, everyday people. I decided on the name A Million and One Stories (as a slight nod to a classic Jay-Z and A Tribe Called Quest songs). A Million and One Stories will highlight ordinary people doing extrodinary things. Artists, poets, rappers, etc. who are different yet all bound by their collective passions.
The first story of this series is The Sneaker Lounge.
The Sneaker Lounge is an unique boutique that offers sneakers (of course), apparel and jewelry. Let’s give a bit of backstory.
The main man behind The Sneaker Lounge is Narada Garrett. He’s originally from Talladega, Alabama but settled down in Birmingham after attending UAB.
He can’t precisely remember when he fell in love with sneakers, but he realized at an early age that collecting them were a passion. Looking around Birmingham and noticing the lack of unique sneaker outlets, this passion drove Narada to open The Sneaker Lounge — a store that’s the first of its type in Birmingham.
Ebony and I dropped by for the opening day of the store.I’m disappointed she told me not to do my rap squat but whatever, we’re still here with our mirror selfie.
There was great energy in the store and many people stopping by out of curiosity after leaving adjacent businesses. We were able to take him away from his host duties to conduct a quick interview.
Ebony: Who are You?
Narada: I’m Narada Garrett. I’m from Talladega, Alabama. Alpine, to be exact. I’ve been in Birmingham since 99, I moved up here to go to UAB. I stayed here ever since. You can pretty much say I’m from Birmingham.
Ebony: When did you know sneakers were a passion or an obsession for you?
Narada: It started real early, I’ve loved sneakers since I was like 6 or 7 years old. It’s something that never went away.
Ebony: Did you parents ever buy you a pair of skats? (Translation: Skats (n): A pair of incredibly whack, generic shoes. Depending on geography, may be referred to as bo-bos)
Narada: When I was real young yea, I had one or two pairs
Ebony: -What were they?
Narada: You dont know
(Lol, you never really know. They usually just say “Air” on the sneakers)
Ron: They had to be the Air Whacks.
Ebony: Were they some Disney collectible light up shoes?
Narada: I honestly can’t even remember. I remember my first pair of real shoes though, I think they were some Elysees if you remember them from back in the day. I had them when I was like 7 or 8. When I got on the bus with them on, everybody was like “Oooooh, he got some shoes now!”. I think it changed the game forever once that happened.
Ebony: Growing up, who was your favorite athlete and your favorite sneakers from them?
Narada: Growing up, I went through a lot of changes, it was MJ for a while, I loved Penny and had a few of his shoes but MJ was everybody’s favorite, especially if you’re a big basketball guy like I am.
Ebony: So next question would be your favorite sports moment in life-
Ron: – Since MJ is your favorite player, what was your favorite MJ play?
Narada: The last shot in 98, the pushoff on Byron Russell. Well it wasn’t a pushoff.
Ron: Let’s throw in another question, what did he have on his feet?
Narada: He had on The Last Shot 14s, I had those too.
Ebony: What’s your favorite shoe of all time? Your Holy Grail shoe?
Narada: That’s hard, that’s hard…I like the OG 2s. The white black and red ones.
Ebony: What’s the worst shoe out today? Like the comfort, colorway…?
Narada: I’m not a big fan of the Under Armour. But I have had a lot of requests for them so I’m going to cater to my customers and get a few pair in.
Ebony: Which discontinued shoe will you like to see come back?
Narada: Well we don’t see a lot of the Elysees like we used to.
Ebony: Would you say hip hop has an influence on your style? Whether it was in your youth or today?
Narada: Definitely, definitely, pop culture has an influence on what I do. On my store.
Ebony: A question about the store: Why did you decide to do it? Why not just be an individual reseller?
Narada: I wanted to bring something bigger to Birmingham. We go to bigger cities and they have boutiques, Bimingham doesn’t have that. I wanted to bring something new, something fresh to the city. I think it’s something that will catch on.
Ebony: What are you personal thoughts on the resale culture?
Narada: I really don’t like when someone buys a pair of shoes for 150 bucks then sells them for 350. I try not to do that myself. I try to sell them for the least amount I can. It’s messed up the game a lot. A person may not even love sneakers like that but go out and buy three or four pair. It takes away from someone who does love sneakers.
Ebony: What was the overall focus of the store? Any future goals?
Narada: I want people to come in for sneakers, but I’m providing a lot of other things to accentuate that. So my future goals? I want to have multiple Sneaker Lounges. I want this to be the first one.
Ebony: What products do you offer?
Narada: We have sneakers, jeans, joggers, t-shirts, wallets, watches, chains, bucket hats, socks, a variety of things. What I wanted to focus on is that if someone comes in here, they will find something they like. They may not like the sneakers but they might like a hat or something. No matter who it is, they’ll find something.
Ebony: As far as your sneakers, will it be Jordans or will you have Asics, Pumas?
Narada? What I’m trying to do is get a variety of shoes. You can look around and see some new Jordans that came out, some old Jordans that came out, some Reeboks, I’m trying to get a variety of things.
Ebony: How did you acquire your stock?
Narada: I went to LA for a fashion trade show. I linked up with a few people who I get the apparel and accessories from. And I actually have a lady out in LA who does shopping for me. She actually works for me. She goes around and just shops. She’s very good at what she does. She’s over the top with it. She bothers me sometimes. She never goes to sleep. I might get a call at 2 am and she’s reporting back to me. It’s a good thing though. I’d rather have someone who’s like that than someone who would go missing on me.
Ebony: Which current athlete would you like to see with a signature sneaker?
Narada: Kyrie has a shoe and he’s currently one of my favorites. Kyrie was my answer but he has his shoe.
Ebony: Do you see Lebron’s shoes getting retro’d like MJ?
Narada: I think so. It’s something that’s really big. All the great players have shoes brought back so it’ll definitely happen down the road.
Ebony: Cavs or Warriors?
Narada: Cavs are going to win. That’s the underdog pick. I don’t think Bron wants to lose to the Warriors.
Ebony: Last time you were the most turnt up?
Narada: I went to New Orleans with my lady one time and we went pretty hard. We–I can’t say that. That was my first time and I kinda went in.
Ebony: Predictions for Duke (Ron edit: National Champion Duke) next season?
Narada: The Championship! I think we’ll do good. We got Brandon Ingram coming in. This year kinda surprised me though. We had some great wins to start the season. But then we were really young so I didn’t know how it would play out.
Ebony: Last question, we usually would have Sky with us but he wants to know if you could get the True Blues in 11.5?
Narada: Yes. The answer is yes. I could pretty much get anything. It could take a week or two, but I could get what you need.
Ron: So if people came to you with special requests, you could take care of that?
Narada: Yes, just send me an email and I could get you taken care of. I have people doing that for me.
*Circle, underline, highlight, whatever that last comment. Yes, he says he can get pretty much any sneaker and give you a fair price on it. So take that money that you were about to give that ridiculous reseller and support local businesses.*
That concluded our interview. As Ebony and I began wrapping up and preparing to leave, we noticed a very diverse group of people walk in: An older white lady (she bought joggers), a Mexican man who just ate next door (he was scoping out the hats) and a group of teenagers. This is Narada’s vision. No matter who you are, no matter what’s your personal taste, you can be accommodated at The Sneaker Lounge. It’s truly a store where the customers will always be first priority.
So much success to Narada and his future endeavors. Birmingham has needed something this unique that truly represents the culture for ages.
So this concludes the first edition of A Million and One Stories.
A story of one man with a passion who followed his dream.