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Pilsen, Little Village, Back of the Yards

Two Friends Opened Their Dream Sneaker Store In Chicago. It’s Been Burglarized 4 Times In 2 Years

Flee Club co-owners Darris “Gem Shoe” Kelly and Sabrian "Boo" Sledge said burglars stole $40,000 worth of Jordans, Yeezeys and designer clothing — but they'll keep building up their business.

Darris "Gem Shoe" Kelly (left) and Sabrian "Boo" Sledge, childhood friends and co-owners of Flee Club at 2221 W. Taylor St.
Mack Liederman/Block Club Chicago
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TRI-TAYLOR — Childhood friends started a high-end sneaker store out of a Maywood home, growing it into a shop they dubbed Flee Club.

The store at 2221 W. Taylor St. has now been burglarized four times in the past two years. Though it’s hurt the owners’ bottom line, they said they’re not giving up on their dream. 

The latest burglary happened about 3:30 a.m. Friday. People broke into Flee Club, taking rare Jordan sneakers, Yeezys and Gallery Dept. jeans and jackets. The burglars made off with about $40,000 in merchandise, Flee Club co-owners Sabrian “Boo” Sledge and Darris “Gem Shoe” Kelly said.

ABC7 was first to report on the most recent burglary.

Kelly said the store is not covered by insurance because their company dropped Flee Club due to the previous burglaries. The owners will have to swallow the losses, he said.

Despite that, Flee Club replaced its glass and opened Saturday.

“You have to,” Sledge said. 

“You got to show them, man,” Kelly said. “We don’t stop.”

Credit: Courtesy of Sabrian "Boo" Sledge

Kelly and Sledge said their business is known for high-end sneakers and designer streetwear — and for catering to celebrities, having sold to Chicago Bulls Patrick Williams and Derrick Jones Jr., as well as rappers Fabulous and Polo G.

The owners spend “somewhere in the six figures” on security annually, using armed guards, locks, sirens and burglar bars, they said. They moved to Taylor Street because they hoped it’d be safer after their original location by the United Center was burglarized, Kelly said.

Sledge said nobody has been charged with the burglaries.

“This could be Fort Knox, and they’ll just run a car in,” Sledge said. 

Kelly said he regularly tracks down limited-release sneakers and clothing, sending people out of state to buy them for the shop. The labor and the upfront purchasing costs are heavy for a small business without a big bank account or partnerships with luxury brands, Kelly said. 

“I just found out that people are going to target me,” Kelly said. “They’re going to target me wherever I go in this city because I have the hottest items.” 

The $40,000 lost will be a “big hit,” Sledge said. 

“Think about what 40K can do for you. And it’s the pandemic still,” Sledge said. “It’s also all the sweat equity we put into attaining these items. It’s not easy getting these, either. You have to build relationships. We want to let bigger companies know they can trust us.” 

Credit: Michael Hicks Jr./Provided
Sabrian Sledge shows LaVar Ball the Flee Club’s sneaker inventory. Sledge started the business eight years ago out of his friend’s Maywood home.

Flee Club hosted basketball star LaVar Ball‘s Big Baller Brand pop-up in November. Sledge and Kelly gave Ball a tour of their inventory room, showing him the work they “built from out the house,” Sledge said. Ball told Sledge he was proud to see Black men building their own brand.

Terrance Wills, owner of neighboring Razor Red Grooming Solutions, said Sledge and Kelly have always been “community guys.” The sneaker duo has organized backpack giveaways, provided free toys at Christmas and sponsored an AAU basketball team, Wills said. 

“As a business owner, I see the hard work they put in. They’re repping their social media, supplying their inventory, keeping the place clean. That’s a lot of work,” Wills said. “To see someone even just bust a window, that hurt. 

“You have to be a good businessman in this city, because you’re going to come across adversity.” 

Sledge said he is shaken but not deterred.

“It’s just disappointing, more than anything. Knowing the guys we try to be, trying to service the community, the culture, everything,” Sledge said. “We got employees we’re helping. We can’t save the neighborhood, but we can change lives, one by one.”

Credit: Mack Liederman/Block Club Chicago
Darris “Gem Shoe” Kelly walks through his inventory room where burglars took about $40,000 worth of Jordan’s, Yeezy’s and designer clothing.

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