HYDE PARK — Tony’s Sports, a local sneaker and apparel destination in the 1990s and 2000s, will re-launch as a pop-up shop in Hyde Park on Friday.
The Adidas-backed pop-up will be open 11 a.m.-8 p.m until Feb. 16 at the former Fabiana’s Bakery, 1658 E. 53rd St.
Events and parties are planned to coincide with the pop-up and NBA All-Star Weekend, and custom Tony’s gear will be available.
The pop-up honors sneaker culture’s “pre-internet, word of mouth” origins, owner Tony Fernandez said.
“It’s incredible how much hunger people have for the retail environment where they vibe with the experience,” Fernandez said. “People have the internet at their fingertips, they can buy stuff cheaper, but they still want to feel some kind of a glue between the owner and them … that’s what Tony’s had.”
At its peak, Tony’s Sports featured seven locations throughout the city, including two in Hyde Park. One, a women’s and children’s store, was next to Kenwood High School; the other was a men’s store at 53rd and Kimbark, where there’s now a CVS.
“People used to come from the Hundreds and would travel to the Tony’s up north,” said Fernandez, who now lives in Florida. “Once I opened in Hyde Park, they didn’t need to.”
“Trendsetting consumers” sought out Tony’s Sports for coveted items, former Jordan Brand president Larry Miller told the Chicago Tribune in 1999.
Jordan Brand opened a small shop that year inside Tony’s flagship location, 3941 N. Sheridan Rd., as Nike sought to expand its Chicago presence beyond the Magnificent Mile.
“Tony’s is popular with the hip-hop crowd for its assortment of apparel by African-American designers such as FUBU, Willie Esco, Mecca and Phat Farm,” according to the Tribune. Those are legacy brands now, but Tony’s dates back even further.
“Chicago’s not ready” for the relaunch, Fernandez said. He’s excited at the opportunity to reconnect with the old customers and employees he’s connected with over the last three decades.
“The people that shopped at Tony’s in the ’90s, today they’re 45,” Fernandez said. “The best thing that’s gonna come out of this pop-up shop is them introducing me to their children and saying, ‘Hey, look what I’ve done with my life.’ … We need more of that in this life.”
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