During the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Black-owned businesses struggled to remain open. Fortunately for some business owners, they were not only able to remain open but also to thrive. At a time when most would find it risky to expand, The Sneaker Thrifts’ owner Brandon Miles took on the challenge with optimism. Brandon is not new to entrepreneurship; he opened his first Sneaker Thrifts location in 2014.Brandon was fashion-forward in high school, wearing highly sought-after shoes as a teen. Fashion was what made Brandon stand out, garnering the interest of his friends. He turned his passion into a hobby, selling his used shoes to classmates. Thus, the inspiration for The Sneaker Thrifts was born.His first locations were in Culpeper, and the shop later relocated to Fashion Square mall. After his lease ended in summer 2020, he opened a pop-up shop at the Shops at Stonefield that proved to be both popular and profitable. Brandon was confident during the pandemic that he would be able to continue sales because he had an online store in addition to the brick-and-mortar location. “Shoes are a big thing still, like cars. People are always going to buy shoes,” Brandon said. When Muse Paintbar closed permanently in Stonefield, the leasing managers offered Brandon the storefront, which happened to be a larger space.

Brandon Miles keeping shop on a Tuesday afternoon. Credit: Credit: Mike Kropf Credit: Credit: Mike Kropf

Last year, Miles quit his 9-to-5 to focus on The Sneaker Thrifts. Prior to pursuing entrepreneurship full-time, Brandon was a counselor for a local rehabilitation facility. He decided to pursue his own business when recognizing that the facility seemed more concerned with filling the beds than the wellbeing of the patients. Although confident, Brandon did face a few struggles during the quarantine, as his location in the mall saw a decline in sales. Mall management did not allow store owners to operate their shops during lockdown but still expected rent. With the decrease in sales and remaining rental obligation, Brandon decided not to return to Fashion Square once his lease ended. Stonefield, however, was able to remain operable because each storefront has separate entrances and makes for better crowd control in allowing patrons limited access to shop.

Credit: Credit: Mike Kropf Credit: Credit: Mike Kropf

Aside from the pandemic, Brandon has overcome other challenges as a young entrepreneur. At 33 years old, he has been a business owner for nearly a decade. He shares that profit can range daily and entrepreneurship is not for the weak.“Sometimes you’ll have slow days or even slow weeks. Then there are times where you’ll make up for all of the slow days in one day,” he said. “You just have to be flexible and maneuver in a way so that you still make your goal.” 

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Patty Medina

Patty Medina joined Charlottesville Tomorrow as engagement reporter in 2021. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from Full Sail University and is also a 15-year Air Force veteran with three years of military foreign affairs experience.