Mark Farese, nicknamed Mayor, owns 1,700 pairs of shoes neatly stored in custom designed clear boxes stacked to the rim in a basement protected by cameras and a key pad combination in a New Jersey suburb.
The only number that matters to Mark Farese is 9.
It’s his shoe size.
Farese, nicknamed Mayor, owns 1,700 pairs of shoes neatly stored in custom designed clear boxes stacked to the rim in a basement protected by cameras and a key pad combination in a New Jersey suburb.
But the 39-year-old Puerto Rican from the Bronx, who says he makes no lines for a pair of shoes, says he's no shoe collector.
“I am a wearer,” he said proudly. “When you collect paintings you’re not wearing paintings, if you collect stamps you’re not putting stamps on your daily mail.”
His love for shoes is so strong that he has never ever sold a pair of shoes, and it’s this fact, that has him shaking his head every time there is a new release. He can’t fathom how younger guys wait in line for days just to sell it online to turn a quick profit.
“So you sell that $150 shoe for $400,” he said. “But do the math. In that time you’re waiting in line, you’re making $3 an hour.”
The Nike Foamposite Galaxy, which retailed at $220, were being sold online for over a thousand dollars.
He insists he loves the passion, and the “hustle” but he thinks the hustlers ruin it for true lovers of sneakers.
“To take it away from another kid, who is going to wear the shoe - it's whack, shoes are meant to be worn,” Farese said.
For his part, it will take Farese four years to wear a different pair every day.
Any sneaker collector would salivate just taking a peak inside his basement that holds over $350,000 (non-retail estimate) worth of the most highly sought-after and valued sneakers in the world.
General releases, exclusives and holy grails make up a collection he wouldn’t mind taking with him to the grave.
“My first choice is to get a mausoleum and stuff all these shoes in there with me,” he joked. “I don’t think they are going to let me.”
At the heart of Farese’s collection are the 1,200 plus Nike Air Force 1s, the basketball shoe that the company introduced in 1982. He also has Nike’s famous Air Jordan line, Nike running and basketball shoes, Adidas, Pumas, Reeboks and designer shoes.
The shoes come in graffiti design, animal skin, metallic print that react to camera flashes, Louis Vuittons and leather.
He has every design you could imagine. From some of his most prized shoes, the world's only 14 pairs of the Made to Order Pack Nike's laced in actual multicolored crocodile skins valued at $2,000 a pair retail to his favorite shoe ever – the Nike Air Force 1 Linen.
The list goes on to Nike Air Max 360 Hybrid Playstation 3’s, Nike Lebron 7 PEs, Jordan V(5) Motor Sports, Nike Zoom KD 4 Nerfs, Paris SB Dunks and a pair of custom-designed Yankees shoes that include actual stitched pinstripes, and all of the jersey numbers worn by Yankees Hall of Famers.
Farese has amassed his collection from buying at mom and pop shops in low-income neighborhoods to Nike's storefront shop on Mercer Street in Soho in New York City.
He'll wear some once a year and others up to three times. Then there are pairs he wears on a consistent basis.
It's a love that goes back to when he was just 10 years old and was given his first pair of Air Force 1s from his mother and grandfather.
“It's just rubber and leather, but it's a just a passion that I have,” Farese told Fox News. “I love shoes. I really, really love shoes.”
Farese’s passion for sneakers is likely unparalled. Some call him the "King of all Sneakerheads." Sneakerheads is a term given to only the best who collect (and wear) some of the world's most rarest sneakers.
“Look at what I spend on shoes and this is a safe addiction," he said. "Look at what a person that smokes three packs of cigarettes a day spends. What's that $30 times seven, that's $210 a week on killing yourself? If I buy two shoes a week at $88 each, $166. What's safer?"
The secret for the Puerto Rican is simple. He builds relationships with sneaker giants like Nike, and countless other people in the business.
"I've earned it. I'm not the greatest shoe collector in the world but what I am, I am king at building relationships," Farese said.
His two kids aren't even allowed in the basement by themselves. Although sometimes his stepson, who has his same shoe size, sneaks in for fun.
“When it comes to that, I'm top dog. I've built relationships with all these brands, all these clothing companies," Farese explained as evidenced by a pair of Kevin Durant Nike Zoom KD IV "Nerf" inspired basketball shoe that were in his possession before they were even released.
“I'm not cocky. People think that I am. It bothers people."
Even with all of his passion for sneakers, there’s still one shoe that haunts him, the Kobe Bryant Denim Air Force 1. He’s come across a few pairs but none his size.
While some collectors are jealous of Farese for showing up at shops while they're online for hours or even days to pick up the latest hot shoe out. Other admire his passion for sneakers and in a way formed a cult following to Farese's addiction.
Farese has hosted numerous shows all over the country that draw hundreds to thousands of collectors, a demographic that ranges from 12 to 40-year-olds and even a few 50-year-olds.
But while many look up to him, he doesn't know what he could do with the quote-unquote role model label.
"Not that I consider myself a role model. Kids look at what I do but I've never take on the challenge to be used as a role model or a motivational speaker," the sneakerhead said.
"I've never been given that opportunity. I wouldn't know what to do with it…I have a story to tell. I have product that people like to see. I look at it as giving people something to see - eye candy. ... I provide something that people like.
"I’ve never been given the opportunity to use that platform. If given I would do something with it. I don't know what."
Farese has personally met some youngsters that hold him in high regard. While he's kept those meetings to himself he was once moved by a kid whose mother brought him out to New York City.
Farese recalled that they were exchanging messages on one of the many sneaker forums that exist and spoke to the kid's mother once he found out how old he actually was. The mother and her 14-year-old son traveled to New York where they met with Farese. The boy and his idol spent an hour and half talking about sneakers before the youngster went inside the Nike studio to customize his own shoes.
"The kid had nice things to say," Farese revealed.
Farese's dream is to one day work on a collaborative project with Nike. The former customizer and owner of a car stereo system shop has had some of his ideas taken before, he said.
Lined up on a wall near his work desk are a few clear boxes with Air Force 1 Bespoke shoes that he's designed. He's shelled out $800 per pair, over 40 of them.
“It's a dream. It's part of a dream. If it ever happens - it happens. If it didn’t, I owe Nike all the thank you’s for making great shoes.”
Adry Torres, who has covered MLB, NFL, NBA and NCAA basketball games and related events, is a regular contributor to Fox News Latino. He can be reached at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter: @adrytorresnyc