UB student opens clothing store downtown
Yusef Burgos got his start in the trading business by selling gum in middle school and networking with upperclassmen.
He saved up enough money to start buying sneakers, which introduced him to the shoe business.
Ten years later, Burgos, a senior accounting major, teamed up with two of his friends and opened a streetwear store in downtown Buffalo. The store is called The Cellar because of its basement-like atmosphere, and is located at 569 Elmwood Ave. Shelves are stocked with brands like Supreme and Bape and its walls are stacked with Yeezys, Jordans, and just about any hard-to-find sneakers imaginable. The Cellar doesn’t only sell these shoes, but they also take trade-ins.
“We’re not just people who are doing this for the money; we’re doing it for the love of the culture,” Burgos said. “People can sense that when they come in. When they bring in shoes to sell or when they just come in, we talk about future releases, past releases and things that we love.”
Burgos described his store as “chill” and is decorated with a signed Wu Tang CD, a Travis Scott action figure and a variety of high-end Supreme memorabilia.
The most unique feature of the shop, however, is the keymaster; an arcade machine where the grand-prize winner could go home with a $1,000 pair of kicks.
Local teens from Canisius High School went to The Cellar to play the game, which costs $5. Winners could trade the prize back to The Cellar for a reduced profit if the shoes aren’t in their size.
But Burgos’ main goal is to create a sense of community among sneaker-lovers in Buffalo.
Much of the store’s inventory comes from networking among sneaker sellers, trade-ins and internet sales.
Still, much of the stock comes from Sole High, a former Buffalo sneaker shop and Burgos’ last employer.
Burgos along with business partners, Napoleon Kerbner and Adam Kellerman incorporated Sole High’s inventory to open The Cellar.
Burgos believes The Cellar’s prices separate the store from its competitors.
To sell products for such reasonable prices, Burgos is honest with customers about trade-in offers.
“When customers bring things in, we tell them straight up ‘this is what we can offer you.’ We’re completely honest with them and tell them what we sell it for. If they do want to take it, the money is here,” Burgos said.
The store already has “regulars” like Buffalo-native Santana Pouncey, who watched The Cellar’s opening-day unfold.
“I was here the opening day [ a few weeks ago] from 11 a.m. to close. It was crazy in here. There was about 500 or 600 people. It was packed the whole day, people kept going in and out,” Pouncey said
It was through the Buffalo sneaker community where Burgos met Napoleon Kerber, fellow Buffalo-native and current business partner.
Kerber and Burgos traded sneakers back and forth through a Facebook sneaker group.
When Burgos started managing the Sole High store, he brought in Kerber to help.
Sole High was the first sneaker store that Burgos was heavily involved in, and he helped with the store’s finances, utilizing his skills as an accounting major.
When it came time to open The Cellar, the process wasn’t easy for the trio, as Burgos explained.
“Most of my responsibilities were behind the scenes like acquiring the LLC and even doing the bills. At our age we aren’t contacting National Grid, so that was a new experience,” Burgos said.
These new experiences paid off for the business partners. Burgos is hoping to incorporate a Youtube channel to document daily interactions with customers and even film segments with Buffalo Bills players.
“I really have a good feeling about the future. There’s so much excitement that’s built around the store. Everyone that comes in is just genuinely happy and I truly think it’s sustainable,” Burgos said.
Brent is an arts staff writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org