Stuck behind a school bus when running late is bad luck. Hitting a pothole is bad luck. Openings a store the week the COVID shutdowns hit is something else entirely.
Frederick Paul had this kind of bad luck.
After a year of work, he was finally ready to move his vintage shoe business, Fahrenheit 313, into a brick-and-mortar location at 20114 Livernois, only to hit the worst possible timing. However, he did not spend years building up just to be stopped by a global pandemic.
Paul started building his business back in 2016 during his senior year at Western Michigan University. Paying for rent, food, and his desire live campus life was starting to add up, and his part time job wasn’t quite covering things.
With a need for cash, Paul did what people are always told to … “sell what you know.”
What Paul knew was vintage shoes.
“I had always been a collector (especially) of Michael Jordan’s,” Paul says about his origins. “Even back when I was a kid.”
Like comics and coins, if you know the product, you can make some decent change, and Paul knew it. He was able to draw on his long history and put parts of his collection on eBay.
Over time the business grew.
He returned to his native Detroit and decided to really put in some initiative and go physical with the shop on Livernois.
When the year of prep work was rewarded with a pandemic, he adapted.
First, he had to keep the store alive. Wayne County holding off on evictions for the year helped, but that wasn’t enough.
Fortunately, Detroit takes care of its small business entrepreneurs, and there were several grants he was eligible for that helped keep him afloat:
- Wayne County Back To Work Grant – $1,000
- TechTown Small Business Stabilization Fund – $1,500
- Michigan Restart Grant – $10,000
“We wouldn’t be open if we didn’t win those grants,” says Paul.
He also received a load of PPE and a gallon of hand sanitizer to use when his doors reopened.
Then came the need to start getting the shoes to walk out the door and leave money in their place. For this he fell back to his internet roots.
While internet sales during the pandemic are hardly news, there is something to be said about Paul’s personal touch. Shoes were often hand-delivered, not by mail, often by Paul himself.
He went to the homes of his customers … of collectors … and stood by his product.
Paul also hit social media hard before he reopened in June. His route was more unique than most shop owners. Yes, he tried to keep the store on people’s minds, but he also tried to act as a form of escapism.
With everyone’s tensions running high, Paul decided to take people’s mind off the pandemic. Things like opinion polls and voting on sneakers allowed the collector community to come together.
It also not only kept people’s mind on the store, but showed he was a true believer in sneaker collecting.
For the past several months things have returned to as much of normal as 2020 seems to allow.
Paul’s determination shows how we don’t always make our own luck, but we can steer it.