The Rodriguez brothers aren’t brand or retail executives. They’re not shot-callers making million-dollar decisions in boardrooms. But their influence in the sneaker industry, and on the culture it serves, is undeniable.
“Most industry insiders realize what the Rodriguez brothers bring to the game. They bring New York. They know products and have a keen sense of what the New York consumer is all about,” Ankur Amin, co-owner of Long Island, N.Y.-based athletic boutique retailer Renarts, said of the family. “They have the type of energy and hustle that’s required to stay on top of all that’s happening in our fast-paced industry.”
The Bronx, N.Y.-born trio of Ricardo, Leo and Jusepet (aka “Juice”) are atypical in the sneaker world. They’re marketing and sales experts, helping Adidas (Jusepet and Leo) and Jimmy Jazz (Ricardo) appeal to customers. But they’re also part of today’s crop of young influencers, whose style is admired by the street fashion-focused.
Also making noise in the industry is their youngest brother, Kerwin, better known as Kerwin Frost, member of the burgeoning NYC-based art and DJ collective Spaghetti Boys.
“We came from that influencer world, we’ve been part of the culture for a while, so we know street style and streetwear,” Leo explained. “But our work ethic and what we do for these companies is just as important as how we came up. I would say we’re a hybrid of influencer meets corporate.”
The brothers found their footing in sneaker culture through the resale world, when it was still in its infancy stages.
“Me and Leo used to work in my dad’s parking lot in the Bronx and save money to buy shoes. But we were always working, so we would just collect them; we never got to wear them,” Ricardo explained. “Juice found Flight Club back in like 2004 or 2005 and said we could bring our shoes there and sell them. My dad sold the parking lot, and we were out of a job, so we needed money. We ended up bringing our shoes to Flight Club, and they sold in a week, all of them.”
That first consignment experience turned into a full-time hustle.
“Shoes sitting on shelves for like $40 in every store in the Bronx were selling for $300 downtown,” Ricardo said. “We would take a car, go to different sneaker shops, find deals, and then go to Flight Club and sell them. That was our thing until we became established with managers of the stores, and we became the sneaker plugs.”
After becoming the go-to guys for kicks, it didn’t take long for the corporate world to start calling. After stints at Dr. Jays and Puma, Leo is now a Northeast fashion channel account executive for Adidas North America. Juice is also at Adidas as its East Coast activation manager, and Ricardo is the marketing manager for Jimmy Jazz.
For the brothers, who have always been mutually helpful, the corporate side of the sneaker industry provided the first time they were ever pitted against one another.
“I would lose a window program to Juice, but I would beat him to a billboard,” Leo, who is considered the family’s workhorse, said of his time as account marketing manager at Puma. “It was friendly competition, but nonetheless it was still competition.”
And that friendly rivalry led to epic battles for their respective brands over advertising real estate.
“’We were launching a shoe over the summer, and Leo had booked windows and a full program [for Puma] at DTLR. I needed that same timeframe for the shoe I was launching,” said Juice, the most public of the three brothers. “I went on a bidding war with him and won in the end. To him, he took it as a competition with each other versus a competition of the brands.”
But it wouldn’t take long for Leo to bounce back and get a win of his own.
“Adidas had the [Walters] billboard [in Atlanta] before me, but I wanted the space because it meant a lot to the community,” Leo said. “We had just signed Meek Mill and some great imagery of him on a motorbike. I went and got the billboard right under him. It was a bit of a shocker to him.”
Today, Leo and Juice are on the same team, but Ricardo — the brother who best keeps work-life balance in mind — is running the show elsewhere. Although there’s no friction among the family, their close relationships get put aside during business hours.
“Jimmy Jazz is my account, and I challenge Ricardo on making activations better and him providing a better marketing plan so we could have something stronger and cohesive,” Juice said.
Ricardo added, “When we’re in a work environment, it’s not like we’re telling each other secrets or what’s going on. It’s more like, ‘I have this idea, can we execute it?’ And then Juice gives me suggestions. But I don’t get an advantage because he’s my brother.”
Although the expertise of the three is spread over two standout sneaker marketplace companies, they haven’t ruled out doing something significant together in the industry in the future.
“We do have ambitions as a collective. Our parents are pretty entrepreneurial, and have always instilled in us that you need your own business at some point,” Leo explained. “But for now, we’re focused on our day-to-day.”