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Reclaimed Renegade

Venita Cooper has taken her growing love and appreciation of Tulsa's Greenwood District, along with her energetic love of retro sneakers, and fanned it into a passionate endeavor.

Article
Rob Harmon
Photos
Sarah Eliza Roberts
Posted
December 28, 2019

Back in 2015, a Vanity Fair article referred to the seven most museum-worthy sneakers in the world. Among them, they described the 1997 Reebok x Chanel Insta Pump Fury as a shoe of mythical proportions, the original 1985 Air Jordan as “the watershed moment of sneaker culture,” and the 2005 Nike SB Pigeon Dunk as “riot inducing” because of the pandemonium that ensued upon its release among sneakerheads, many of whom had camped out three or more days ahead of time to get their hands on the shoe.

Many Tulsans can probably recall when those shoes, and so many other coveted designs, were released. They can talk about where they were on the day those shoes began selling. They even remember precisely how much they paid for them. More importantly, and this is the kicker (pun intended), they know about how much they are worth today on the resale market. Many of those same people have bought and resold so many shoes, it’s staggering. They’re a part of a phenomenon that some are still calling a sneaker subculture. But when a subculture industry reaches nearly $2 billion a year and is projected to become a $6 billion market in another five years, how can it still be considered subculture?      

Venita Cooper proudly displays an inventory of some of the coolest sneaker designs ever made on a sleek shelf system on one side of the shop and local art gallery currently featuring art from the Black Moon Collective on the opposite wall. (Photo: Sarah Eliza Roberts)
Venita Cooper proudly displays an inventory of some of the coolest sneaker designs ever made on a sleek shelf system on one side of the shop and local art gallery currently featuring art from the Black Moon Collective on the opposite wall. (Photo: Sarah Eliza Roberts)

One century after the original Converse All Star sneaker broke onto the scene, Tulsan Venita Cooper is running her resale sneaker shop called Silhouette Sneakers & Art. Cooper proudly displays an inventory of some of the coolest sneaker designs ever made on a sleek shelf system on one side of the shop and local art gallery currently featuring art from the Black Moon Collective on the opposite wall. A passionate belief in herself and her concept, as well as the entrepreneurial spirit of Black Wall Street, is what Cooper says fuels this endeavor.

Starting with an opening night in conjunction with the Tulsa Arts District in November 2019, news of the shop has been steadily growing. Even Tulsa mayor G.T. Bynum snatched up a pair of Air Jordan Retro Royals and was seen on social media, wearing them in various locations around town, including during the usually very formal setting of his annual state of the city address.

Located in the historic Archer building, in the heart of the Greenwood District in downtown Tulsa, Cooper designed the rear of the store with brick that symbolizes those used during the height of Black Wall Street before the Tulsa Race Massacre. Seeing it as an honor to be in the building and in an area where so many great businesses run by people of color have gone before her, she is stoked to be a part of the revitalization of the historic area.

Cooper believes that sneakers can be a way for some people to find community. (Photo: Sarah Eliza Roberts)
Cooper believes that sneakers can be a way for some people to find community. (Photo: Sarah Eliza Roberts)

“I don’t pretend to be an expert on Black Wall Street and the history of Greenwood,” says Cooper. “Every day, I learn something new from the people whose families have endured the repercussions of what happened. People teach me new things every day, which is one of the things I love about being in this space.”

Cooper has taken her growing love and appreciation of the area, along with her energetic love of sneakers, and fanned it into a passion. Through multiple community partnerships like the Tulsa Economic Development Corporation, Black Upstart, and the Tulsa Startup Series, in which she won the grand prize of $15,000, Cooper is taking advantage of the opportunities given her and passing it on.

Collaboration and an openness to learning from others are what Cooper sees as one of the keys to her ongoing success. Teaming up over the holidays with Disrupt Tulsa, a north Tulsa youth art alliance project, the boutique worked with young artists to create additional streetwear to go along with the boutique’s already fresh inventory of designed shirts and other apparel designed by local artist, Trey Thaxton.

Cooper sees her experiences so far as a business owner as an opportunity to give back and inspire others to go on and follow their passions, even going beyond what she’s done. “A lot of my peers who don’t have entrepreneurship in their background, like myself, hopefully will be impacted by the lessons I’ve learned about trying to create a business,” she says.

Sneakers can be a way for some people to find community, Cooper says. A cool pair of kicks can help someone connect with others and express themselves in a way that they otherwise couldn’t.

“I have a love for beautiful things, for unique things,” Cooper says. “I’ve always been into sneakers for as long as I can remember. People respect anyone wearing a really dope pair of sneakers.”

LOCATOR
Silhouette Sneakers and Art
10 N. Greenwood Ave., Ste. C | Tulsa
918-732-9166
silhouettetulsa.com
Monday-Saturday: 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
Sunday: Closed

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