Date: July 20, 2023

Saving Soles: Sneakers get a second (or third or fourth) chance at Snkrr Bar

Snkrr Bar owner Dominique Worthen has always had a passion for sneakers, but when he was a kid, his family couldn’t afford to drop hundreds on his dream collection. So he learned to take care of what he had.

“I grew up extremely poor, but I always knew how to maintain my sneakers,” Worthen says.

Now, Worthen is offering those skills to others through his sneaker cleaning service inside Crosstown Concourse. He first opened Snkrr Bar in July 2021 in a storefront on Madison Avenue near Fino’s From the Hill. The shop relocated to Concourse this spring and held its grand opening in April.

Snkrr Bar offers various tiers of cleaning service (each named after food or something bar-related) for all types of shoes (even dress shoes and cowboy boots), but they specialize in sneakers because, as Worthen says, “sneaker culture in Memphis is huge.” For $50, the Saute service offers restoration of a shoe’s upper and midsole, or for $120, customers can get the full-on Fried Hard Special with a deep clean from inside and out, top to bottom.

“The Fried Hard Special is our most popular service, and that’s when we go above and beyond. We restore the shoe and reverse oxidation,” Worthen says.

That oxidation reversal process is called “icing” in Snkrr Bar lingo, and Worthen explains it like this.

“Everything gets oxidized — your skin, your toilet bowl, everything that oxygen touches. If you ever see white paint in an old house that gets yellowed, that’s oxidation,” Worthen says. “So we reverse that oxidation [on shoes] with UV light and a solution that we created.”

Snkrr Bar also sells shoe-cleaning products, like suede cleaner and dry brushes, so customers can maintain their kicks at home. And they sell clear storage boxes for displaying sneakers.

Though Worthen couldn’t afford sneakers as a kid, he’s since made up for that with a collection of more than 100 pairs.

“I started collecting when I got to college and got to make my own decisions about my finances. I could be a little more irresponsible,” Worthen jokes.

He says sneaker culture has exploded in recent years with some shoes that retail for $100 reselling for between $1,000 and $4,000.

“A lot of times you’re bidding for a piece of real estate. You can buy them brand new, wear them, and still get more money than what you paid when they were brand new. I don’t know of another commodity that works that way,” he says.

But when the stakes are so high, there’s bound to be a downside. And that was the case for Snkkr Bar in their previous location on Madison Avenue. Worthen said the shop was broken into three times within six months. In one case, nine people broke into the store in the middle of the night in a smash-and-grab-style burglary.

Those break-ins are a big reason for Snkrr Bar’s move to Concourse.

“We wanted to be in a place that’s a lot more immersive and safe — the 24-hour roaming security, the policy as far as locking the building up. That’s somewhere we needed to be,” Worthen says.

It’s a move Worthen is proud of, and he said he’s been blown away by the reception his shop has received so far.

“Everyone has been so welcoming. To have [Crosstown Redevelopment Cooperative President] Todd Richardson come and people like that down here during our grand opening event made us feel very special,” he said “It made us feel great to know that we had support.”

Snkrr Bar is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday in Suite 117

1350 CONCOURSE AVE • MEMPHIS, TN • 38104 • 901.203.8300