More than two dozen NFL players gave Fabes Sole High its moment in the national spotlight Sunday when they sported the company's custom cleats on the field. The same day, its store in the Walden Galleria went dark.
Since June, the company has used its Walden Galleria storefront to showcase the works of artist Nicholas Avery as he painted custom designs onto cleats for pro athletes. But an increase in rent led them to reevaluate their need for a mall store, said co-owner Napoleon “Polo” Kerber.
Kerber said they're not going out of business; the company plans to reopen soon in a different spot. Fabes Sole High also continues to operate two other locations, at 569 Elmwood Ave. in Buffalo and at Destiny USA in Syracuse.
Last week, The Buffalo News featured the business as a number of NFL players prepared to wear their customized cleats as part of the league's “My Cause, My Cleats” campaign.
Kerber said the business benefited from the exposure and connections it gained from being inside the region’s largest mall. But as its clientele grew, Fabes Sole High was scrambling to keep up with orders from customers like pro athletes and didn't really depend on the walk-in business that a mall generates.
“Luckily we were able to finish everything for Week 13 [of NFL games] and make sure we were able to get all of that to the players," Kerber said. "We still do have a huge waiting list as far as stuff for the rest of the season with these guys." Once the NFL season ends, the business will turn its attention to filling orders for NBA players.
The business had operated a store in the Walden Galleria on a month-to-month arrangement, but found out late last week that its rent would have nearly doubled, Kerber said.
That wasn’t affordable, Kerber said, prompting Fabes Sole High to close its Galleria location for good on Saturday night. Fabes Sole High plans to move into a site on Main Street in Williamsville that will be more of a studio and workshop than a traditional retail store.
"Now that we won't have as much overhead from the mall, we'll be able to bring in some more people to do more of the prep jobs," Kerber said.
The Galleria’s marketing director did not return calls to comment Monday on the store's departure from the mall.
Kerber said Fabes Sole High probably would have eventually left the Galleria as its business model evolved.
"It had its perks," Kerber said of the mall location. "Hopefully we have enough momentum and enough exposure that not being in the mall, we'll still be O.K. We do have those athletes now and we'll continue to work with them, and keep building it and maintaining."