Air.Traffic.Control. - Miami Interview
Known for its steaming hot weather, “less is more” attitude to clothing, and dirty booty bass jams, Miami has something new to boast about. Air Traffic Control is the place to be with the heat steaming off the shelves as well as on the streets. Catering to those freaks that missed out on that one holy grail, or ones that copped it, but want to hustle some cash on the side, ATC introduces their Mile High Club consignment store. Using more sexual references than a 2 Live Crew song, the fellas at ATC let us in on why sneaker culture has just gone X-Rated!
Tell us where the idea for Air Traffic Control came about?
In our early brainstorm sessions the one word that always seemed to stick with us was “traffic.” Movement in general was a recurring theme that we felt was relevant to what we were looking to accomplish with our shop, whether in relation to sports or the undeniable fact that we were setting up shop in a city built upon the drug trade. Initially, we were a bit concerned with the similarity to the Traffik Tradeshow, and when we found out on top of that there was a Florida-based chain of mall stores selling women’s shoes called Traffic, that idea quickly flew out of the window. We threw around quite a few different ideas (which may be embarrassing to mention, so we’ll refrain), but you know how it is when your mind is stuck on something and can’t let go. We started coming up with “Traffic” hybrids, and ended up at Air.Traffic.Control. It represents unparalled authority—the movement of weight from point A to point B. It’s the transfer of imports and exports globally or that #23 soaring above the rim.
Who has been involved in the process of getting ATC up to the level you expect from the store?
Recognizing a void in Miami for this type of shop, the three of us (Daai Lo, Mark Bolkovich and David Toribio) packed up our things and made the down-south trek in the midst of an ice storm a little over a year ago. This being the first retail venture for all of us, we were forced into wearing many hats, and each of us definitely learned a lot throughout the process. While the bulk of the work was on our backs, we wouldn’t be open to this day had it not been for folks like Samantha Edwards (Gif+d – design), Wes Henstock (Confid3ntial – design), Jimmy DiResta (design) and Stephanie Reyes (publicity).
What is the scene like in Miami? It is usually a town more known for its booty bass music, strip joints and hot ass weather!
Miami is without a doubt the ultimate playground for debauchery. Amidst all the skin and sin, there’s quite a community here that we feel has been waiting for a shop like this to open up, giving them something to identify with and call their own. We wanted to create something for them to be proud of on a national, and even global level. Los Angeles has its Undefeated. New York has its Flight Club. Now, Miami has ATC.
Do you think you will cop any heat in naming your store very similar to Flight Club. How will your store differ?
Funny, when we came to the name Air.Traffic.Control. and conceptualized the whole airport-related theme, this definitely came up as a concern. Flight Club is family. We have the utmost respect for them and would never want to step on toes. We expressed our concern to them directly, asking if they had any issue with our direction, and if they felt it would conflict with what they had going on in any way. Ultimately, we were given their blessing and wished the best. So as for that comparison, as long as we’re good with Flight Club, we’re good.
Tell is about the consignment part of the store with the Mile High Club.
Consignment is by no means a new concept in the world of sneakers. We’re not reinventing the wheel here, but this is something completely fresh and new to the Miami area. The Mile High Club is the name given to our members only, 80/20 consignment program. Its primary objective, metaphorically, is no different than any other Mile High Club. We go above and beyond to get members “paid” so to speak. Additionally, members are privy to information regarding our latest arrivals, discount fares, in-store special events, as well as ATC-related events outside of the shop.
Miami is known for its penchant for hot girls and its “less is more attitude” to clothing, considering the heat you get all year round. Did this take a role in promoting your store, with the “Mile High Club”? Do you think sex sells, even in the case of footwear?
This business is undeniably male-driven. A love for sneakers and beautiful women pretty much go hand-in-hand. Add the fact that we’re a block from the beach to the equation and of course the result is “less is more.” We have a nice team of female “flight attendants” that we send out from time-to-time to help drive traffic to the store. While we do carry a good amount of women’s hoodies and jackets, having them out in 80-90 degree heat in anything more than a pair of shorts and a Hellz Bellz baby tee or an MTTM tank (and of course, something fresh on their feet) would be just plain cruel, no? Sex will always sell; and as cliché as it may sound, Miami is about as hot & steamy as it gets. You can expect this to be a facet of ATC’s marketing because it essentially comes with the territory, but when it is done, it will be with taste.
What will you be stocking at ATC?
ATC is a footwear-driven shop. While the bulk of our stock consists of Nike and Jordan brand, we pretty much cover the gamut, with additional inventory from A-Life, Adidas, Bape, Converse, Fila, New Balance, Puma and Reebok. Hell, we even have a pair of Lotto’s on the shelf. Between the locals and transient traffic, our customer base is very diverse. We try to make sure we have something for everybody. To properly set off our extensive footwear selection, we’re currently offering apparel from the following lines: aNYthing, Recon, Subware, Mike23, Rogue Status, Crooks & Castles, Hellz Bellz, Married To The Mob and Boroughbred.
Where do you source your wide variety of brands? Will you have an account with any labels or is the store run purely on a consignment level?
The advantage of having a consignment shop is you don’t really have to do all that much chasing or sourcing. People are looking for a good platform to sell shoes, and we believe we’re providing that. It’s much easier for a seller to drop off or send their shoes here, versus dealing with the headache of online sales. At the moment, our footwear inventory is completely consignment-based. There are surely a good amount of one-offs, but we definitely have multiple sizes in numerous styles, and even full size runs in some. As for apparel, we have legitimate accounts with all the brands we carry.
What do you think are the pros in buying from a consignment store rather than from a store that sells Tier Zero accounts or Quickstrike accounts?
You’re not going to have to sleep outside of our door for a couple nights to get the shoe that you’ve been wanting. Not many people have the time or the patience to pull that off. The downside of course, you’re going to have to pay. And don’t blame us; sellers set the prices! After all, the kid that just spent the past 2-3 days of his life camped out to buy the Titanium AJ 23’s when he probably should’ve been at home studying or in school, deserves some of type of compensation, right? Also, once a particular style leaves a Tier Zero or Quickstrike shop, it’s gone. With consignment shops, the inventory constantly rotates. We have styles dating back to ’88, as well as a good amount that were released just this year. In most cases, the customer already knows what they’re going to see before they set foot in a Tier Zero or Quickstrike shop. A good consignment shop always promises some pleasant surprises.
Explain to us how you came up with the design for the store. The conveyor belt not only pays homage to airports but also to Japanese sushi culture (and one could also say the influence of Japan being the originators of consignment stores). Where did your inspirations come from?
Before ATC became a full-time gig, our backgrounds in music luckily allowed us to travel quite a bit. When flying, we’d always pay attention to each airport’s layout and décor, from the terminals to the runway (favorites include: Hamburg, Hong Kong and Warsaw), and also, obviously draw inspiration from the various shops we’d visit and pretty much anything and everything along our travels. Our aim was minimal with an industrial feel. It’s difficult to remain minimal when you have 500+ shoes to display though. We aspired to have the inventory of an old-school Tokyo consignment shop, with the polish of a modern, concept boutique.
The conveyor is undoubtedly the focal point, and was in no way intended to emulate Bape’s Busy Work Shop. I mean, if you’re laying out a shop with an airport-inspired theme, it’s almost a given that if you can do a baggage claim-style display, you do it. It was a must. The conveyor being such a monster, one may easily overlook some of our other prize interior acquisitions, such as our terminal area seating, which was imported from a company in Spain that manufactures seating units for many of Europe’s airports. We also found a brilliant cabinetmaker in the South Florida area to build our check-in-inspired counter, as well as our massive, stainless-finished, shoe display units. The finest details are runway marking and flight pattern-inspired graphics, wonderfully executed by Gif+d’s Samantha Edwards.
Where do you hope ATC will be in the next few years, and what do you have planned for the future?
We’ll be launching our online shop (www.atcmia.com) within the month. We’d be fools to cheat ourselves of the global market. We also have our eyes on additional markets where we feel the same void exists, and a shop like ATC would be appreciated. For now though, we’re just working toward laying a strong foundation and making sure that Miami is pleased with its new destination.
For more info on ATC hit our Shop Guide here