Last Call with Vaughn Slowaski, Owner and Founder of Scoop Drip
At the height of the pandemic, Worcester resident Vaughn Slowaski was able to turn his passion for sneakers into a career, opening Scoop Drip a short distance from the Canal District. Highlighted in a previous Worcester Magazine article last year on the rise of “re-commerce”, Scoop Drip buys and resells sneakers. Anyone can come with a pair for evaluation, and Slowaski can tell them if they have a collector’s item in their hands. As Scoop Drip celebrates its first anniversary this weekend on September 12, Slowaski sat down with Last Call to reflect on last year and how it entered the industry.
Tell me a little more about the transition from operating during the pandemic to a more normal shopping experience?
Well, you see more faces – literally. Fewer masks and more people are coming out, which means more people are selling and buying shoes. This is my first year in business so it’s cool to have this chance and to know that the business is progressing.
Have you started implementing your post-pandemic plans?
It’s always an ever-changing battle. This is something that we always have to stay on top of: putting on the shoes as we sell them. We are selling them faster than we can sometimes get them.
What are your criteria when deciding to buy a pair from someone?
First of all, we need to go through the whole sneaker and make sure it’s even real as replicas are a big deal in this industry right now. You have to use a black light and use your eye – I’ve been doing this and playing with sneakers for a very long time so I know what leathers they’re using and what to look for when something goes wrong.
True as in the real brand they say?
Yeah – actually a Nike and Adidas shoe and not some random factory made somewhere and shipped to the… dark web, I guess we’ll call it. Everything is rigged, so you need to do your best and do your homework, so that you know what you are looking for and keep other things out.
How do you do this homework and research?
Well, part of it is that I’ve been doing this for so long. But before a shoe comes out, I try to go to a Foot Locker, shall we say, and ask if I can check them, the feel of the material, how it looks and the smell – the smell is great. . You have to look at the stitching and look for a watermark. At least four or five times a week I have to tell someone ‘hey, your shoes are wrong, sorry.’ It’s sad but I have to protect myself. You don’t see the blood splatter until you turn on the UV light.
Yeah, someone walked in with a pair of bloody sneakers, and I’m like, this is biohazardous, I’m not even gonna touch your sneakers.
So when people come in, is it like the “Pawn Stars” show? Do you negotiate on the spot?
Yes, almost. People come in, I make an offer and if they want, they’ll take it. Maybe we’ll negotiate the price a bit. As long as there is enough margin for us to make a profit, I’m going. It is mostly young children who go to look for shoes with their parents, and I like to help them to fend for themselves to have a little pocket money. Some people need the money, or they are on the shoe and want to move on to the next shoe that will be released next week, so they want the money to buy that next pair that is really in demand. We have a great subculture in the sneaker world.
These are limited articles. When the shoes are made, they only make a limited number of pairs and once all the pairs are sold, that’s it. It becomes a wanted and rare item like anything else, like Pokémon cards. Children open the packages, tear them apart, and those who make it through the group are valuable.
Is there some type of restoration and refurbishment for rare shoes? As if you saw a shoe that was totally out of stock but could use a bit of a touch up, right?
It’s a big market – I don’t personally do it, but I know a few people who do. I would consider it – I know someone who restores sneakers, can match the original paint almost perfectly.
How did you come to sneakers?
For me, it was just wanting to be beautiful growing up. Wanting to feel good about myself and a nice pair of sneakers has always done it for me. It was kind of a reward for me and a way to stand out in the crowd.
What prompted you to take this step and get into the science of sneakers?
It was just a matter of me working in a factory at night and buying every pair for myself every week. It was my hobby at the time and it got to the point that my room was full of sneakers and I was like, what am I doing? I count all this money I spent and learn that there is another market, the resale market. At first I didn’t want to do it because they were like my babies, but I realized it was a way to expand the sneaker community and meet more people. I have met an incredible number of people sharing the same hobby and the same passion. Once I realized that this could potentially be a career path, I started to take it more seriously – I started getting more than pairs for myself. I started to have all the sizes I could buy.
I bet your room was really full at the time.
[Laughs] I ended up moving everything to a storage unit as it wouldn’t fit anywhere else.
Do you remember exactly when you realized this could be a career? Like when someone told you about it?
I remember who, what, where, when and the shoe. It was my cousin Tyrell. He was always the type to find a way to flip. He bought sneakers and returned them. He sold the Lebron James South Beach. I think he paid $ 200 for them and sold them for $ 1,500 and that’s when I realized – oh there’s a market for that and a very doable market. It was like 2010, so I must have been between 18 and 19.
The first shoe I bought to resell multiple pairs was the Jordan 12 Flu Games. I think they came out in 2015 or 2016. That’s when I personally started buying sizes other than size 10, with the intention of selling them. After I got my pair, I would say what else do you have? You got all the other pairs, I’ma get them all [laughs].
What do the manufacturers think of this, do you think?
They work hard to fight [re-selling]. I don’t think the retail stores want it – they set up protocols like one pair per person and so on.
What advice would you give to other young entrepreneurs who are trying to get started?
Just stay diligent. Do not abandon. It’s difficult at first and there will be days when you feel like it’s not worth it, but it is, if this is your dream. Never give up on it.