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  1. Hernando

"Kicks," "grails": Cool shoes by any name are now available in Spring Hill

Shoe Plug’s Tashyra Dash points out the “squeaky, squishy” soles on the Vapormax Plus “the latest Nike rage.”  BETH N. GRAY | Special to the Times
Shoe Plug’s Tashyra Dash points out the “squeaky, squishy” soles on the Vapormax Plus “the latest Nike rage.” BETH N. GRAY | Special to the Times
Published Mar. 29, 2019

Times Correspondent

SPRING HILL — If your kids are whining over their "beaters," begging for a certain "retro," considering a "yeezy" or a "bred," they'll find paradise at the just-opened Shoe Plug in Silverthorn Square.

It's a specialty sneaker store launched by a trio of savvy 30-somethings for whom the term "tennis shoes" prompts eye rolls.

The lingo is all about "kicks." A "shoe plug," by the way, refers to a store or person that hooks up someone with great kicks. So says an Internet dictionary of today's sneaker definitions.

"This was my whole childhood," said Shoe Plug partner Damon Wade, 35 and father of two, referring to the hip language and gesturing to the display of 150 to 200 sneaker models on display.

One's childhood defines the store's customers, said partner Melissa Hann, 31 and mother of three. The push for the newest, most unique and look-what-I'm-wearing trend comes from parents who yearned for such as children and were denied. They're determined to do better for their own kids, Hann said.

"I think parents are raising them to be sneakerheads," agreed Wade. "Most of the crowd comes in with the whole family."

Customers have expressed the same complaint that prompted Hann to launch her own store.

"I got tired of driving to Tampa for sneakers," she said. She couldn't find "grails" locally for her children, ages 6, 7 and 8. Grail definition: "sneakers someone wants more than any other."

Other local footwear stores have referred customers to Shoe Plug. Why have they not jumped in to serve this niche?

"(They) have looked at the demographics," Wade said, "and think there's not enough populace."

Yet, partner Tashyra Dash, 35 and mother of one, wasn't sure they are right.

"There are 80,000 people under the age of 35 in Hernando County," she said. "This is the demographic."

Customers come for Nike, Adidas, Puma, Vann, Sketchers, Jordan, Congress and Brooks, sizes crib 3 to men's 15, "shoes for the whole family."

Prices range from $30 for children's Nikes and Sketchers to $400 for the Jordan Retro 11 Win Like 96.

"We've seen doctors to middle-class working people," Wade said of their customers

Air Jordans are proving most popular, particularly models purchased as collector items, increasing in value and becoming "deadstock" — unworn, in their box — and part of a billion dollar industry nationwide, said Wade.

The Vapormax Plus, with soles resembling industrial-grade bubble wrap, cost $220 and are "the latest Nike rage," Hann said. Buyers range from high-schoolers to "a 60-year-old guy who bought them for posture."

As for so-called "pocket disasters," the store deals with competitive distributors to set prices below manufacturer list prices. The strategy often enables Shoe Plug to put new releases on its shelves sooner than general shoe stores, Wade said.

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The trio of owners apportions its labor. Hann is the visionary; Wade, the business dealer; Dash, the operational overseer, including scheduling the team to cover store hours, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. The store is at 14245 Powell Road in Spring Hill; phone (352) 593-4254.

The owners admit to filling their own closets with footwear — 60 for Hann, 100 for Wade and 200 for Dash, the fashionista, who has shirts and purses to match every pair.

Contact Beth Gray at graybethn@earthlink.net.