Last month, brothers Sam and Ben Kersh opened the doors to their new flagship store in Manchester’s Northern Quarter – fulfilling a lifelong dream for two Liverpool lads who dreamed of setting up their own sneaker store for the last five years.
The dream began back when Sam left to go and study abroad at a University in Los Angeles. Compared to the UK sneaker scene at the time, the culture out there was just different to anything else happening this side of the pond, with stores like Flight Club and Round Two household names in the city and helping to foster a new wave of sneaker enthusiasts.
With Sam picking up rare pieces out in LA and taking them back to Liverpool, Ben started building up his own collection – and the pair soon began selling sneakers online and on Instagram. The collection soon expanded to the point where they couldn't all fit it under one roof – until the new Kersh Kicks store came along. Launching last month, the physical space is a culmination of the pair's passion for sneakers, streetwear and vision to be able to sell deadstock product from brands like Off-White, Supreme and Palace to the North of England from a bricks and mortar spot in Manchester.
After spending seven months cultivating the space into a 1300 ft store complete with a space to host games of FIFA and a gallery hosting artwork from local 0161 talent, Kersh Kicks are now fully open for business and are providing a much-needed Buy-Sell-Trade store complete with limited-edition product and deadstock grails to the North of England.
Complex headed up to Manchester to talk to Sam and Ben Kersh about their routes into the sneaker game, grafting to make the dream a reality and why the North of England needed a store like Kersh Kicks.
Complex: You’ve only opened your doors just over a month ago. How long has the process taken to get the shop looking how it is currently?
Sam Kersh: It’s taken a long time. We were looking at a lot of places in Manchester, and as soon as we saw this place, we knew we had to work to get it to what it looks like now. It was in a proper bad state before though, the downstairs was run down, water and drainage everywhere, so we had to get that sorted out first.
Ben Kersh: We were always here overseeing the moving out and cleaning every day. We thought it was going to take a couple of months, but it ended up being a seven month job just to finish it.
When did you guys first get into sneakers?
Sam: A long time ago – probably when I first started at uni in America and I started seeing all the basketball shoes regularly, and how popular they were over there and at the time thinking they were really weird. I just got hooked from there, and then realising just how into sneakers people were over there and the demand proper cemented my interest.
Ben: For me it was actually seeing Sam come back home for Christmas wearing all these mad shoes and asking him “why are you wearing these mad high-end shoes” and Jordan’s that I’d never even seen over here. They were just shoes we’d never seen before over here.
When did you first start buying and selling shoes and streetwear?
Sam: I lived in America for five years, buying and selling shoes – that’s where the thought process for the store really started off one at a time. I was living in LA, and the scene out there is huge – it’s different there.
I was in New York for two years and LA for two, and both cities have a huge sneakerhead culture. I got fully stuck into it, spending countless hours queuing up at stores in both cities and just building my collection up. At the same time as that, Ben was back in the UK doing the exact same thing as me, just on a smaller level.
Ben: I was doing it in Liverpool – where we’re from – and just doing it while I was at school. Then I moved to Manchester for University. I’m actually still there now, this is my placement year. And then Sam moved back from the US and we decided to just merge what we’re doing.
Sam: We were doing a lot of good buying and selling online, so the shop was always going to be the next big thing for us.
Being from Liverpool originally, why did you decide to create the shop here in Manchester?
Sam: We really just wanted to have a shop somewhere that is obsessed with trainers and is a true second capital when it comes to streetwear and shoes. Manchester has a lot more going on. There are bigger businesses here – not bigger football clubs though!
Ben: I think Manchester needed a store like this for a while, but just somewhere up north in general did too. There’s a lot of consignment stores in London, but the buy/sell/trade aspect hasn’t really popped off up north yet. There’s a lot of stores in America where people can bring their shoes in and trade or cash out straight away, so we wanted to bring something like that up here, so they don’t have to worry about online fees or stuff like that.
We also just wanted to bring in clothing that you can’t find anywhere else around here too. Having deadstock Supreme, Palace, Off-White and brands like that, stuff that you can’t get your hands on elsewhere, and being able to sell it to people that really want it here as there’s a demand for it now.
What’s the vibe been like in-store since opening?
Sam: It’s been crazy. People are always coming in with their sneakers and talking to us about them, and we’ve had some queues for some of the Yeezy releases too. The vibe has been great though – people can just come in and chop it up with us about the latest releases, or just to sell us product and chill in the store. It's been cool.
So were you inspired by stores like Flight Club and Round 2 in the US?
Sam: Well, Flight Club is my dream store aesthetically, and then Round 2’s business model is something we wanted to emulate. We researched it a lot before we opened, and we shopped there a lot too.
How did you manage to accumulate the collection you have now, and when did you first realise “I’ve got too many to keep in my room now"?
Sam: It’s all our joint collection that we’ve just built from the ground up. It was probably about a couple of years ago where we just clocked it and thought right, we’re gonna have to open a store for all out stuff.
There’s a lot more to the store than just the shop floor. Have you got any big plans for the downstairs section of the shop?
Sam: It’s sort of like our members area, and we’re planning on opening that in a few weeks time for people to come chill out, play some FIFA and stuff.
Ben: We used to have this room in our old house where all our friends used to hang out in back in the day, but when we moved out our parents down-sized so we lost it forever. It was a legendary room, everyone we know still talks about it.
Sam: So we’ve always had this ambition to bring it back. Me and Ben have always wanted to bring that vibe back – and now we have. It’s really weird as the downstairs bit has the exact same dimensions as our old hangout room. There’s another room downstairs that we want to call “The Gallery”, where we can exhibit local artists that we like and host their work. We’ve already got a few of our favourites in already – Davo Howarth from Manchester, the Kersh Kicks logo was made by Virginia Ben. We definitely just want to host photography and local artwork there and celebrate the talent here.
Have you had anyone interesting head into the store since opening?
Sam: We’ve had some sick people pull up already from all sorts of backgrounds – Naby Keita, Mahalia, Jof Archer to name a few – and a lot of Manchester United players are showing a lot of interest already. We've has Jesse Lingard and Scott McTominay come through – both really sound guys – so I think we can expect a few more of the boys there to head through too!
What’s the overall vision for the store and yourselves?
Sam: This store has just opened but we’ve got big plans in the coming years to expand further. We’re loving every minute of it so far, and we’re just loving being here every day – it’s the dream. It’s honestly just like us chilling in our lounge, but it’s open to everyone to come through and connect. We’d love to have some other locations in the UK or overseas after we establish this store and get this one right.
Kersh Kicks is open every day from 11am–8pm at 36/40 Edge St, Manchester, M4 1HN. Follow them on Instagram for the latest clothing drops and sneaker release info.