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November 27, 2014

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Joe Downtown: ShoeZeum’s short stint at Neonopolis was plan all along, building owner says

Image

Joe Schoenmann

A worker’s bucket sits beside an open door at the former ShoeZeum in Neonopolis. The museum, which housed about 2,500 pair of Nike shoes, opened in August and closed in October. This week, workers were continuing efforts to remodel the space into a brewpub.

ShoeZeum in Downtown Las Vegas

Collector Jordan Michael Geller poses in the ShoeZeum at the Neonopolis mall in downtown Las Vegas Sept.1, 2012. The collection has 2,500 pairs of new Nike shoes. Launch slideshow »

Map of Neonopolis

Neonopolis

450 Fremont St., Las Vegas

The ShoeZeum's run in Las Vegas' Neonopolis was more of a sprint than a marathon. But Neonopolis’ owner, Rohit Joshi, said the departure of the shoe museum after only three months downtown was according to plan.

Joshi said the ShoeZeum was only intended to stay open for a few months. It opened in late August, and downtown sources said it closed in late October. Thursday morning, workers were removing bits and pieces of fixtures from the space.

Joshi said the space soon will be occupied by a brewery. Previous reports said it was to be known as Banger Brewing. But the Sun could not reach anyone at a number found on the Internet for the company.

Jordan Geller, ShoeZeum owner, could not be reached.

Shortly after opening the ShoeZeum, Geller told the Sun about the leather and rubber paean to Nike shoes.

As a child, he often accompanied his father to the shoe store.

"He would tell me all about the shoes," Geller said, noting his own love of Nike shoes.

Eventually, Geller went to law school, but he never lost his passion for Nikes. He bought and sold them on eBay, then used his profits to round out his collection. He said he has paid up to $7,100 for a single pair.

When Geller passed the bar and became an attorney in California, his bar number — 234523 — sealed his decision to open the ShoeZeum.

"Those were the three numbers Michael Jordan wore in his career," Geller said, talking about Nike's longtime pitchman and inspiration behind the hugely successful Air Jordan shoe mass marketed by Nike since 1985. "It was almost like fate, a sign I needed to do this."

Nike's slogan is "Just Do It." So Geller did.

The first ShoeZeum opened in 2011 in San Diego.

But last year, Las Vegas beckoned.

“I thought it needed to be in Las Vegas, a place that had so many attractions,” Geller said. “I thought this would be a good place for more people to be able to see it.”

Although the ShoeZeum was not affiliated with Nike, company executives had visited the display, Geller said, as has Meg Whitman of eBay.

The museum gave visitors a peek at 23 shoe exhibits with themes such as music, movies and the Olympics. There were Nikes designed in honor of the 1980s Michael J. Fox movie "Teen Wolf" and Guinness Beer Nikes.

Geller's shoe collection is the largest in the world, certified by the Guinness Book of World Records.

As for Geller's favorite pair, they are the only ones that have been worn — a game pair from Jordan.

Neonopolis opened in 2002 with a plethora of businesses, including a pet store, a place that sold sunglasses, a multiplex movie theater, a restaurant/bowling alley and a country/western-themed restaurant. Businesses quickly fled the $100 million development that was partially funded by taxpayers. Joshi purchased the building in 2006 for about $25 million.

Its current tenants include a new Denny’s, Heart Attack Grill, Toy Shack and the popular Drink & Drag. In July, the owner of the gay nightclub Krave said he was moving from the Strip to Neonopolis, where he would open the world’s largest gay nightclub in the space of the former multiplex theater.

Opening of Krave Massive was hoped to be in December.

Workers at the site Thursday, however, said they expected it to open later this spring.

Sun reporter Ron Sylvester contributed to this report.

Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown, he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.

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  1. Yeah Buddy! Sorry I missed that "museum" of shoes.

  2. This place was actually pretty cool, too bad more people didn't know about it. I think it had plenty of potential, it coudld've been advertised more and they could've had special appearances by celebrities who've had shoes made of them. Granted not everyone is into rare shoes and collecting, there is definitely a market and an attraction to those who do. There was a big difference of seeing shoes here and seeing shoes at a mall for free, many of these were the rarest of the rare, it's like comparing going to look at art for free in the frame section at wal mart to going to the gallery of fine art at the bellagio.