Nike will close its NikeLab store at 21 Mercer Street in New York’s SoHo neighborhood in January, the brand announced to Complex. The store has long been one of Nike’s biggest, hosting A-list parties with superstar endorsers and launches for the brand’s most exclusive sneakers.
Sneaker industry sources had told Complex that Nike’s lease on the 21 Mercer space expired in January and the store was set to close. Responding to an inquiry on Friday, Nike confirmed it would close the store in January 2023.
“As we close 21 Mercer as a physical space, we will carry its community-driven vision through key activations and our existing New York outlets, our digital ecosystem, as well as our marketplace partners,” said declared the mark.
Nike said that when the store closed, staff were encouraged to continue their employment with the company by applying for other positions at Nike.
The store opened in August 2008 as 21 Mercer, its debut marked by a block party attended by Spike Lee and Roger Federer. Mercer was famous in part for its bespoke service, a sneaker customization offering that allowed shoppers to schedule an appointment to design their own Air Force 1 or Air Max 1 for around $800. In its heyday, the store was a go-to destination that ushered in a new era for sneaker culture.
In its early days, 21 Mercer functioned not only as a Nike-owned sneaker shop and marketing tool, but also as something of a hangout for connoisseurs of New York streetwear.
“That’s what I liked most about the store: it was really a hub,” says Samantha Goretski, who was one of the store’s first employees. “People who visited became like permanent installations, an extended family of shops.”
21 Mercer’s launches of highly sought-after sneakers like the Nike Air Yeezys or the “Galaxy” Foamposites fostered a sometimes hostile environment. A nearby condo sued Nike over exits from the store in 2018, complaining that long lines led to fights, shouting and public intoxication. Goretski, who spent a year during her first stint at Mercer before returning in 2011 as assistant manager, recalls the chaos surrounding the release of Kanye West’s first Air Yeezy at the store.
“We certainly received threats and needed security to escort us to the stations,” she says.
The store closed for a month for renovations in the summer of 2014 and reopened in June as NikeLab, a sleek new concept that retained its focus on limited-edition products while leaning a little more towards contemporary sneakers rather than pure retros.
In recent years, NikeLab has no longer been Nike’s biggest draw, even in SoHo, thanks to the massive Nike SoHo that opened in 2016. Still, the brand has kept NikeLab a focal point, l using to distribute shoes via reserved in-store pickups. through its SNKRS app and recently installed exhibits there that celebrate Nike’s history.