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Chicago sneakerhead store Flee Club has been robbed 4 times in 2 years

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Luxury sneakers can sell for hundreds of dollars, collectable ones for even more. There's a store in Chicago just west of the Loop called Flee Club, opened by two childhood friends, that's become a neighborhood fixture. But Flee Club has been robbed four times in the past two years. They can no longer get insurance, but they vow to stay open. Darris Kelly and Sabrian Sledge own Flee Club. They join us now from Chicago. Gentlemen, thanks so much for being with us.

SABRIAN SLEDGE: Thanks for having us.

DARRIS KELLY: Thank you for having us.

SIMON: How are you both doing? This has got to be a very difficult time for you.

SLEDGE: We're good. We're keeping our head high, grateful and just, you know, trying to keep a, you know, good head through it all.

SIMON: Yeah. Mr. Kelly, you, as we said, are childhood friends and founded this business together. Tell us about that. Did you turn to each together one day and just say, I got it; shoes?

KELLY: (Laughter) No. I started selling shoes maybe about, like, 10 years ago. And after I started making a couple of dollars, we just went into the business. I mean, he knew that I was taking it real serious. So one day he handed me a pair of keys, and we had a brick-and-mortar store.

SIMON: Sabrian Sledge, tell us about your store, too, because you just don't get shipments from Nike. You range all over the country, right?

SLEDGE: Yeah. Once we found out that it was like, wow, a lane for this, we just knew, like, we just need the hottest stuff that the city don't get, especially on our side of the city. So we just knew we wanted to be, you know, like that, like unicorns in our city.

SIMON: But let me ask you, does running this kind of business make you a target for robbery, you know, like a high-end jewelry store downtown?

SLEDGE: Yes, it does.

KELLY: In this day and age, everybody wants to be fresh and have on new clothes and have on the latest sneakers. So it's definitely - we're definitely a target.

SIMON: What do you do about security? What can you do?

KELLY: We hire two securities. They work here every day. And then on holidays, we hire overnight security, too. And, you know, that's the best we can do.

SLEDGE: We have security shutters on the doors and windows. And we have a safe, good environment, you know, but the thing about it, if they want it bad enough, they'll run a truck through it.

SIMON: Have you figured out how much loss you've suffered because of the robberies?

KELLY: Probably, like, between 300,000 to 500,000.

SIMON: That's a lot of money.

SLEDGE: Yeah.

SIMON: I mean, that's a shortstop for the White Sox.

(LAUGHTER)

SLEDGE: And it's not also just inventory. We have to get windows and doors fixed and things like that. In these times, man, when it's not - you know, there's not a lot of money floating around in our community and what we are near, you know?

SIMON: Is crime getting worse, do you think?

SLEDGE: Yeah.

KELLY: I think so.

SLEDGE: Yes, sir. Chicago, it is tough - and I think all over the world, man, it's just tough when we take losses like that and we have to, you know, get back. And we wear it with a smile, man. You know, we may make it look easy because we don't stop.

SIMON: Boy, I don't think there's any reason to think that anyone who robbed you is probably listening to our show right now, but if they were, anything you'd like to say to them?

KELLY: You know, I would like to tell them, you know, to quit really messing with us because we're doing stuff to build our community. I think we're good people, and I don't think we deserve getting broken into so many times. We're just trying to build a business.

SIMON: Darris Kelly and Sabrian Sledge, co-owners of the Flee Club in Chicago. Gentlemen, thanks so much for being with us.

KELLY: Thank you.

SLEDGE: Thank you. We really appreciate it.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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