Interview with Crossover Owner Nick Sakai

Interview with Crossover Owner Nick Sakai

by Marc Jay
02.25.2011

Marc Jay: It’s Saturday evening, it’s 7 o’clock and most stores are probably closing right now across America. I’m standing in Crossover and there’s a little line outside and the shop is busy. I’m here with the man that makes it all happen, Mr. Nick. How are you, sir?

Nick Sakai: I’m doing okay. Good to see you Marc Jay.

Marc Jay: I know nothing about this store; I know it’s yourself and Mr. DJ Vice but how long has this shop been here and how long you have been in the retail business.

Nick Sakai: Crossover has been around for about two years now. Our first store is based in Santa Barbara, California. We opened it, kind of on a whim; neither of us had ever done retail before. We kind of just jumped at a freak opportunity that was thrown at us and kind of learned to roll with the punches, as you will. It worked and two years into it we got offered to come to Vegas. So we opened in Vegas about seven weeks ago now and we’re pretty excited to be here at the Cosmopolitan Hotel.

Marc Jay: You are known for selling sneakers, but you don’t just sell sneakers. So who picks out your items and how do you decide what to sell and what not to sell?

Nick Sakai: Myself and DJ Vice do all the buying for the store. Basically we wanted a sneaker store, but we wanted a little more. We couldn’t find more than just sneakers in the sneaker stores that we'd go to. So what we wanted to do was complete the outfit. Complete the look. So we do have a lot of clothes ranging from casual t-shirts, tanks in the summer time to the more dressed up stuff you can wear out at night. It’s pretty much the look that both Vice and myself live our day to day lives in. It’s that casual dressed up look; dressed up enough to go out at night but definitely dressed down with that urban feel. You know the sneakers kind of being the star of the outfit I guess.

Marc Jay: Obviously everyone knows DJ Vice. He’s one of my favorite DJ’s and a fantastic entertainer. What was your background before you got into retail?

Nick Sakai: Well, not many people believe me, but my background was actually in wedding and event planning. For both of us, Vice and I, this is the first time ever doing retail. It’s been educational, it’s been fast, it’s been a lot but it’s been fun too. It’s been working and that’s the most exciting part. For me, I came from doing events and mainly weddings at a country club in Montecito California.

Marc Jay: How does a wedding coordinator and a famous DJ get together and come up with a sneaker store?

Nick Sakai: I guess they don’t. I mean the way we met was completely by chance. I was actually in Las Vegas and Vice was in Vegas working; I was just out here on vacation. I flew home to Santa Barbara and he was actually on the same flight flying to Santa Barbara for a gig. We didn’t know each other but we happened to sit right next to each other on that flight. During the 45 minute flight we struck up conversation based on the fact that we were wearing some similar sneakers. We kind of just hit it off and by the time we landed we exchanged information and decided we were going to pursue opening our own sneaker store. It was pretty crazy.

Marc Jay: What is it with DJ’s and sneakers? I talk to so many DJ’s that are fascinated by sneakers and have like 100 to 200 pairs. What is it about sneakers and DJ’s that they seem to go hand in hand?

Nick Sakai: Well fashion and music are already tied together hand in hand. I’d say within that, the DJ world and the sneakers are very tight knit. It’s because I’d say most DJ’s have a background of hip hop coming up and playing house parties. It was the fashion that’s been around since the 80s; as the vinyl thing kind of exploded that’s the same time the Jordan’s and the Nike’s and all those shoes were kind of exploding at the same time. Within those radio worlds, within those house party worlds, within the hip hop worlds, it was very common to find sneakers. So now a lot of those guys that are now pretty big main stream DJ’s playing all these big clubs in Vegas, they’re pretty lucky because they still get to rock the same style. And that’s kind of what we’re bringing here at Crossover.

Marc Jay: Some people name the store different names because it’s a bit complicated for the average English person, like myself. But where did the name come from and how did you come up with Crossover?

Nick Sakai: It’s got a few meanings. The name was really important to us. We wanted it to have meaning we didn’t want to just choose a name and hang a sign and that would be it. So the name Crossover kind of has multiple meanings. To me, it means mostly that the trend that we have in our store that we’re selling (the sneaker trend) it crosses over to so many different types of people. Age ranges, ethnicity, and race. You can have dads and kids looking at the same shoes in our store which is something, to me, I would have never gone to the store with my dad and shopped when I was younger. Also, it’s a sport reference. Crossover is a basketball move. We do a lot of retro sport apparel in here. The Nike stuff we sell is all the old school Jordan, Charles Barkley, Penny Hardoway type stuff. So it has a sport feel to it too. Third, it’s the name of one of Vice’s and my favorite hip hop songs; EPMD’s Crossover.

Marc Jay: I notice in your store we’re standing right near the DJ booth; a very important part of the store. How often do DJ’s come in and spin? What DJ’s do come in here?

Nick Sakai: All the time. You just missed one actually. Generally the weekends is when it makes the most sense to have the in here just because that’s when the hotel and the retail area is the busiest. But Vice, whenever he is in town, he’s in the store. What’s cool about his work schedule is that he doesn’t have to go to work until midnight so he gets to spend a lot of his time in the store, hanging out with the customers, and DJ-ing. Just giving them that experience. A lot of customers don’t get to experience the nightlife aspect of what he does but can see it here in the store. Also, having been in Vegas for 11 years, Vice has so many connections within the DJ and nightlife community so we have been getting a ton of support from various DJ’s. DJ Toma, DJ Gusto have all been coming in and just been playing when they’re free.

Marc Jay: It’s funny because I think I told you when I used to go to a record store called Black Market Records, years ago in London. They sold coffee and Danishes and it was like a meeting place for DJ’s and people interested in music. I think this place is turning into the same thing. People interested in fashion and music. It’s almost a hangout place where people come on the weekends.

Nick Sakai: You know one thing that excites the both of us the most about doing this and the concept that we kind of wanted to bring from the beginning was not just to sell shoes and clothes off the rack. We wanted to create an experience for the customers. That’s why we have the DJ booth in the store, that’s why we give away free music to everybody, not just paying customers. We want everyone to come into the store and have a good time regardless of whether or not they are buying. Ultimately at the end of the day, someone that leaves here happy is more prone to come back. It’s just the experience more than anything we’re really trying to share because it’s fun for us.

Marc Jay: I notice you sell other people’s lines but you do have your own line of t-shirt’s and some other stuff. Who designs and comes up with the creative for this stuff?

Nick Sakai: Like I said we’re playing catch up with this whole thing as we’re going. So right now we’re doing it all ourselves. We’re designing it, we’re printing it and we’re putting it on the shelves and selling it. That is an area of Crossover that we’re really looking to expand on is creating the Crossover brand so people can come in and take it home with them.

Marc Jay: If I had a sneaker store and record store and I could put it in any casino in Vegas I would actually pick the Cosmopolitan but you’ve picked it. How did you pick such a cool hotel? Because the demographic here is young, it’s a mixed crowd it’s a perfect location you got here. How did you come about finding this space?

Nick Sakai: There was definitely a lot of luck involved. But, again with Vice having been so connected in this town for so long and with the nightclub Marquee being built next door they were the ones actually reached out to us and let us know, not only that there was space available, but what this hotel was going to be about. So we got very lucky that we knew about it early and we are excited to be here. Relevance wise, timing wise and location wise one of the best spots we could have ended up at in the country.

Marc Jay: 20,000 people a day probably pass your shop window. That’s pretty impressive.

Nick Sakai: The foot traffic is pretty incredible. Sales at the end of the day are great. For me the most exciting thing that I have seen in the 6 or 7 week we have been here is just the foot traffic. People walking through the hotel, people walking through the store, people talking about the hotel and just the buzz about the hotel, that’s been the most exciting part for me.

Marc Jay: Looking at some of the prices, it’s very reasonable. We’re in a 5 start hotel but you can pick up a t-shirt for 20 bucks. Your sneakers start out quite low as well. Was that done on purpose?

Nick Sakai: No it wasn’t. We have a lot of limited edition product. Our Nike shoes are shoes Nike doesn’t even sell in their own store so they aren’t found in malls or major retailers. Our value is really in the product that we have. So the fact that we have this limited edition product I don’t have to bother marking it up or anything I just want to get it out like normal. To be honest, it was always hard for me to shop in Vegas. There are so many cool stores here and so many brands I wanted but everything was so pricey. Now being on the other end it’s one of my favorite things about being in the store. People come in all the time and comment how excited they are that our prices are actually affordable. That stuff is cheap and that it’s a lot less than they thought it would be. So it’s pretty cool to see.

Marc Jay: I do notice that there is a sneaker from PlayStation that you’re selling. What is it and how much is it?

Nick Sakai: The PlayStation sneaker is $3,000. The reason why that one is so much is because they’re only 150 made. The 150 that were made were given out to the Sony execs and the NBA players who were in the game. Some how some way we got out hands on one. Never been worn, brand new box. We have it more on display than anything, but if somebody wants it then that’s about the going rate.

Marc Jay: So 5 years down the line I want to see a lot more of these stores, is that the plan? If so, what cities will you be going next?

Nick Sakai: It’s definitely one of the plans. This whole thing has been a whirlwind for us. This is so new and we’re really trying to figure this out now. But it is opening and has the potential to open so many doors for us. I would love to expand I would love to have more stores. I would love to have a brand I would love to have our website doing really well. I don’t know right now, it’s tough. Being in the Cosmopolitan, being in Las Vegas we’re on such a big stage it’s tricky as to which cities we can go to. I’m open to going anywhere; I’ve said that since day one. I’ll take this thing anywhere it needs to go. We’ll see, I’d love to have more, where exactly? I’m not sure yet.

Marc Jay: Last thing, tell people how they can find the website and any information on how they can get a hold of Crossover.

Nick Sakai: The website is www.crsvr.com. We do have an online store and we do have our music online as well available for free download. Again, if you’re in Las Vegas we’re in the Cosmopolitan hotel on the retail level. There are only 9 stores here. If you’re in California we’re right on State Street in the heart of downtown. That’s pretty much it. Who knows what’s going to come next.

Marc Jay: I’m telling you, if you’re in Vegas you have to check out the store because there is almost a club within a club within a store. Very unique to describe. There’s music, there’s DJ’s, there’s beautiful people so do come and check it out. Nick, thank you so much for joining us on Clubplanet, best of luck and I’ll see you very soon. 

Nick Sakai: Alright Marc Jay, I appreciate you coming out. Thank you very much!

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affordable     california     cheap     clothes     cosmopolitan hotel     customers     dads     dj booth     dj vice     dj's     fashion     jordan's     kids     music     nike's     sneakrs     store     t-shirts     vegas     crossover

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