World’s Largest Nike Collection Comes to Las Vegas
Jordan Michael Geller is a man obsessed. His obsession has led to amassing the world’s largest collection of Nike shoes, and he’ll soon be sharing his record-smashing collection in a new “ShoeZeum” at Neonopolis in downtown Las Vegas.
The ShoeZeum is expected to open by Labor Day weekend (Sep. 1, 2012), and will take up a dumbfounding 7,500 square feet in the long-vacant space formerly occupied by Jillian’s, a restaurant, arcade, bar and music venue.
We got an exclusive peek at the new museum space and chatted up Geller about his astonishing collection.
For starters, the museum will feature more than 2,500 pairs of shoes. The collection is so large, in fact, maps will be provided to guests to get the most from their visit. The ShoeZeum will be divided into 23 distinct exhibits.
An automatically-this-blog’s-favorite Las Vegas section, for example, will include things like Nike Dunks inspired by UNLV (University of Nevada, Las Vegas) and other shoes inspired by playing cards.
Another exhibit will be devoted to shoes based on the theme of beer, wine and alcohol. Possibly also our favorite. Decisions, decisions.
The collection includes shoes inspired by snack foods, “The Ugly Duckling,” the Muppets, the San Diego zoo, hemp, every conceivable holiday (Cinco de Mayo, Halloween, Valentine’s Day among them), Sea World, comic books, birds, flowers and just about anything else you can imagine.
Speak with Jordan Geller for a few minutes, and your mind will reel at his encyclopedic knowledge of Nike culture and history. He’s not affiliated with Nike, he’s just kind of crazy-enthusiastic about their shoes.
“I’m the biggest shoe geek in the world,” admits Geller.
At times, you’d think Geller is speaking another language, such as when he rattles off things like, “We’ve got vintage waffles from the ’70s, the Air Max 1, Light and Stab and 90, Hyperdunks, Huaraches and Flight 89s.” We’re not entirely sure how he fits all this into his head, but it’s endlessly fascinating, and we’re not even a “sneakerhead” (the name given to extreme sneaker enthusiasts).
Perhaps the best way to get the Jordan Geller experience is to see it in action. Here, he gives a tour of the ShoeZeum at its former location in San Diego. Fair warning: There’s a 41% chance your brain will ‘splode.
Here’s another great video of the attraction being packed up for its move to Las Vegas, and another video showing where the shoes were kept during the transition to the new ShoeZeum. Let’s just say Geller is quite, um, meticulous. (Translation: It’s like an episode of “Hoarders,” but with incredible organization and purpose.)
Of course, if you have the world’s biggest Nike collection and your name is Jordan Michael Geller (yes, that’s his real name, and it was given to him some time before the basketball player hit the scene), you can’t not have an entire wing of your collection devoted to Air Jordans. Geller says, “This is where sneakerheads lose their minds.” The ShoeZeum boasts 26 years of shoes from the Air Jordan signature line, a whopping 500 pairs.
Jillian’s arcade ticket redemption counter will now be transformed into a sort of Michael Jordan shrine.
The journey to having the world’s biggest Nike collection began during Geller’s second year of law school (yes, he’s also an attorney), when he went to a swap meet. There, Geller met a vendor selling Nikes for $20 a pair. At the time, Geller had $300 to his name. He talked the vendor down to $15 a pair, got 20 pairs, then posted them on eBay. His $300 turned into $800 and he was on his way. He used his profits to buy more shoes, sold them, re-invested his profits, and so on.
The vast majority of the shoes in the collection were acquired, pair by pair, through individual purchases on eBay.
While the Nike shoe collection itself is staggering, one of the real selling points of this new downtown attraction is definitely Geller himself. His passion is contagious. He’ll be very hands-on when the museum opens, describing himself as a sort of “Nike Willy Wonka.”
Geller notes, “When I used to give tours to people, to people who really knew what they were looking at, there were times when they had to sit down. We had to stop the tour because it was too visually stimulating.”
What do the folks at Nike think of Geller’s collection? They’re huge fans. In fact, when a smaller version of the museum was in San Diego, the company’s CEO and creative team flew in from Beaverton, Oregon for a tour.
Geller says, “I think it’s similar to the way Kevin Costner’s character in ‘Field of Dreams’ converted a cornfield into a baseball field. He built it and had his boyhood heroes show up and play ball. People are passionate about Nikes and sports and pop culture. All those things are captured by these shoes. My hope is that if I build this place, people will come.”
One of the more remarkable aspects of the Nike collection is that even if you aren’t a “shoe geek,” the sheer size and scope of it makes it completely fascinating and inspires goosebumps.
At the moment, Geller has signed a relatively short-term lease, unsure whether the museum will remain downtown or if another venue on the Strip might be its ultimate home. Our first thought? What a great fit for the Linq development project, what with special attention being paid to Gen-X and Gen-Y (ages 21-46) visitors. We’re just saying.
A microbrewery, Banger Brewing, is tentatively slated to move into the ShoeZeum space at some point, but it’s unclear when that might happen, and probably not before 2013. So, for now, Geller is confident his life’s work will entertain and delight downtown, adding another quirky draw to a rejuvenated downtown and Neonopolis.
The ShoeZeum at Neonopolis is located at 450 Fremont Street, right next to the Heart Attack Grill.
Tickets for the family-friendly ShoeZeum are expected to run about $10. More news to come!