Rise Store Perfects the Art of Selling Sneakers

Whether you walk into Rise’s retail location in Huntington, N.Y., or click through its e-commerce site, a gallery-like aesthetic is apparent: Shoes are placed on pedestals, and the walls are graphic black and white.

“I became fascinated with the idea of museums,” said co-owner Chase Ceparano, who launched the business in 2013 with Ankur and Nick Amin, the duo behind retail destinations Renarts and Extra Butter. “The energy at Rise is a little darker. It’s for a guy who isn’t into rubbing elbows with the 12-year-olds in a Foot Locker anymore.”

Just don’t call Rise a sneaker store. “I hate that connotation. It’s so much more of a lifestyle store — both in terms of the direction and also in terms of what’s available,” said Ceparano, who also designs for Rise’s private label.

Chase Ceparano, co-owner of Rise
CREDIT: Steve Eichner.

While the shop has only been open for a year and a half, Ceparano and his team are gearing up for big moves in 2015, including additional apparel collections, new shoe collabs and a store opening in Manhattan.

How has the retailer achieved so much in so little time? The key to garnering early buzz, said Ceparano, was a string of exclusives, such as the Fila 95. “We helped Fila to relaunch their specialty lifestyle business through two limited colorways of the Fila 95 (aka Grant Hill 1). We were the exclusive retail spot for that [for a time], and it garnered a lot of attention.”

But more important, said Ceparano, has been trusting his personal vision. “A lot of people who do this try to chase trends — I was never interested in doing that,” he said. “We set the trend, or at least play a part in setting the trend. I have no problem being too early to something.”

“People trust Chase’s taste,” said Scott Saltzman, Puma’s national sales manager for image accounts. “No matter what’s in that store, you know it’s going to be cool. He lives [the lifestyle] and loves it. When someone’s so passionate, it makes a difference.”

“He sees what a brand can be before a lot of other people do,” said Geoff Nishimoto, sales manager for the new line Brandblack. (Rise will carry the brand’s first full collection for spring ’15.)

When it comes to collaborations — a major component of today’s streetwear landscape — Ceparano is interested only in genuine partnerships. “The thing that some people miss is that the word ‘collaboration’ starts with ‘co-,’ meaning there are multiple parties involved. A lot of the stuff that hits, it’s just one voice,” he said.

Rise took a personal approach last summer when creating its “New York Is For Lovers” shoe with Fila, which donates a portion of the proceeds to HIV/AIDS research. (A Puma version will launch on Dec. 1, World AIDS Day.)

“As a kid, I lost my father to HIV,” said Ceparano. “[This project] is something I feel is important. I don’t see a lot of good, quality storytelling outside projects like this.” Another major component of Rise’s business strategy is private-label apparel.

Rise in Huntington, N.Y.
CREDIT: Steve Eichner

“We are launching a capsule collection on March 13 called ‘Power,’ and it’s very impactful in terms of the imagery and silhouettes,” Ceparano explained. “There are a lot of things going on right now socially, politically and economically in terms of inequality and issues with law enforcement. We want to be an outlet for people to communicate how they feel in the way they dress.”

Ceparano ultimately would like to create six to eight Rise collections per year, but he is very conscious of maintaining the brand’s integrity. “It’s got to be super on-point and always have its finger on the pulse. Right now, with the size and scale [the business] is, I’m able to do that,” he said.

Rise’s biggest launch this year will be a new storefront in Manhattan. While Ceparano confirmed the news, he declined to provide details other than noting the symbolism of moving to the big city.

“When we go into Manhattan, it is us sticking our flag in the ground and saying, ‘We are here now,’” he said. “We’ve achieved something. Now it’s time to really go.”

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