Secondhand Success

Secondhand Success

Since 2013, Tanarius Hayes has pursued his passion for sneakers. He would wait in lines for brand new shoes before they sold out. “I tried to stand in line and get shoes, but it was difficult for me at first. And I switched over to selling pre-owned shoes.” When he made that switch, he began to learn the market for pre-owned shoes. He also learned the skill of authenticating shoes, “knowing which shoe is real, which shoe is fake.” This is an integral part of the shoe resale market. With time, Hayes developed a considerable amount of experience reselling shoes.

In 2016, Hayes began his own subscription service, known as the Shoe Pawn Shop. With that service, he was able to sell shoes for cheap. “I was really selling a subscription; I really wasn’t selling shoes,” he said. “I was using the shoes to get people to come in to purchase my subscription.” That subscription service has led to more than Hayes expected.

In step with the increasing growth of the secondhand apparel market, co-owners of Memory Lane, Christ Smoot and Tanarius Hayes, held the grand opening of their third location, on 1st Avenue N, on Friday, September 24, 2021. Memory Lane is a “buy/sell/trade sneaker and vintage clothing store,” as stated on their website.

The History of Memory Lane

As of Friday, the store now has a location in Bessemer, Alabama, Douglasville, Georgia, and one here in Birmingham. The store has grown from its humble beginnings as a passion for Hayes. “I always had a passion for shoes,” he said.

In its early years, the Shoe Pawn Shop grew in popularity in the Birmingham area and Hayes became well known. That is how Hayes met Smoot. 

Co-owners Chris Smoot (left) and Tanarius Hayes pose for a photo in their Birmingham store on the morning of the grand opening.

Smoot would sell rare shoes to Hayes for the Shoe Pawn Shop. “The stuff he was selling me was stuff you never really see,” said Hayes. Smoot would come back and sell him even more shoes. With that, their partnership began. 

One day in 2017, Smoot called Hayes to say, “Hey, I’m opening up a store (Memory Lane) in Bessemer.” Hayes chuckled at the idea of a sneaker store in Bessemer. “I was shocked,” said Hayes, “I was like ‘man, Bessemer? That’s not gonna work.’ And it did.”

He bought a lot of shoes from Smoot the day of Memory Lane’s grand opening. About two months later, Smoot called Hayes again to ask if he would spend some time in the store and help purchase inventory for the store. So Hayes tried it out for a few weeks and bought a lot of inventory. Eventually, Smoot asked Hayes if he wanted to be a part of the team. Hayes accepted and closed the Shoe Pawn Shop. 

Together, Smoot and Hayes have built a strong local clientele, and have been shocked by the overwhelming support coming from their clients.  When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, they had to shut down for a little while, but they were able to operate online. “But when we opened back up in May, we were slam-packed every day,” Hayes recalled. With that support, even in the midst of the pandemic, they have expanded into Georgia and Downtown Birmingham.

Anticipation for the Grand Opening

On Thursday, Sept. 23, the Memory Lane team was in the finishing stages of preparing the Birmingham store for its grand opening. “I feel like this is gonna be the best turnout,” Hayes said in anticipation. “At the same time, I’m very nervous.” Hayes had stepped away from a career job to pursue his passion. Despite the nerves, Memory Lane is doing well.

Memory Lane is just one store in the secondhand apparel market that is growing. The 2021 Resale Report by thredUP estimates the value of the secondhand market ($36 billion) to double in the next five years, reaching $77 billion. ThredUp expects that the resale sector will drive this growth, going from $15 billion in 2021 to $47 billion by 2025. That is good news for resale store owners like Smoot and Hayes, and for anyone interested in reselling clothes. 

The Grand Opening

The next day at 11 a.m., Memory Lane Birmingham held its grand opening. Customers and clients, just as passionate as Smoot and Hayes, lined up outside the door, down the street, and around the corner. Some people got there 14 hours early.

As they waited in line, people peered through the windows in excitement. One of the main features of the store is the right wall and its nine shoe-filled shelves that stretch from the front windows to the cash register in the back. Across from the nine-shelved wall is the store’s pride and joy: The Vault. In the vault are sneakers and other inventory items that are too special to keep just anywhere, so they are safely locked inside the glass box. On either side of the vault, customers find clothing racks of Memory Lane merchandise and vintage clothing items. Stopping by the clothing racks, customers also have an opportunity to see how they measure up to a cardboard cut-out of Michael Jordan. Customers and clients came to the grand opening, ready to make purchases.

Where is Memory Lane Going?

When asked about the future of Memory Lane, Hayes presented a sense of confidence in the face of uncertainty. He confessed that he didn’t really know where the store would go. But at the same time, with all the twists and turns that the story has taken so far, with the team of employees that feels more like a family, and with the success and growth that they have seen already, he is confident.

How to get Involved

There are many ways to get involved in this story of passion, teamwork, and growth. If you are interested in supporting Memory Lane, visit their stores and their website, and follow them on social media. If you have a passion for curating clothes and reselling them, Hayes would tell you to keep your focus and keep practicing day in and day out. With perseverance and passion, the secondhand apparel market is expected to grow both globally and right down the street.

Story and photos by Kyle Bowman