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For the love of sneakers: House of Soles co-founder offers styles for local sneakerheads

May 18, 2024
House of Soles co-founder Lonnie Smith stands in front of the Grand River storefront on May 15, 2024.
House of Soles co-founder Lonnie Smith stands in front of the Grand River storefront on May 15, 2024.

Meet Lonnie Smith, co-founder of House of Soles, a sneaker shop located in Downtown East Lansing, which held its grand reopening on May 11. The reopening is part of a passion all for the love of sneakers.

Lonnie and his twin Lennie opened the original shop in 2020, stemming from a childhood passion for sneakers.

"We were 16 and that's about the age kids start looking for a job and I was talking to my mom about getting a job since I was selling shoes on the street with my friends," Lonnie Smith said. "My mom has always been a business owner, so she told me that she wanted me to work for myself and not for anybody else."

Receiving that piece of advice from their mom, the Smith twins came up with an idea that serves their passion for sneakers.

"My brother and I talked about it and started brainstorming ideas and what to do and we opened our first shop to Okemos in 2020 and been doing it ever since," Lonnie Smith said.


The Smith twins opened their first location in Okemos in 2020, all while still in high school. Shortly after, the store became a staple in the Lansing area.

The store offers potential buyers the opportunity to choose from hundreds of brands and designs, along with the option for people to sell unwanted shoes that are in good condition and receive a percentage of any in-store sale. 

"We sell all types of hype sneakers like Jordans Nikes, Dunks, Yeezys, streetwear type of vibe that a lot of people like," Lonnie said. "We have a lot of people from the community that are obviously in love with sneakers, along with sneakerheads, so we get a lot of people that come in and really just have a conversation about different types of shoes and celebrate the stuff in here."

But starting a new sneaker business meant building up its inventory.

"We started off small. We only had like like two shelves and less than 40 or 50 pairs of shoes," Lonnie said. "When we first opened up, there weren't a lot of sneaker stores in the area. If you wanted shoes you had to go to the West Lansing, which was far."

Because of this, House of Soles quickly became an instant staple in the Lansing Area, a factor which prompted the owners to change course and increase supply and eventually expand into a bigger space.

"We had a lot of people wanting to come in and kind of set out to shop," Lonnie said. "We made sure that were always communicating with our customers, as well as focusing on the marketing side. We made pretty good money while we were in Okemos and kind of got our followers up a little bit." 

Lonnie Smith said once that happened, the twins were able to buy a lot more shoes and move into the apparel side, displaying their own merchandise, along with Supreme and Nike, as well as making the move to Grand River. 


Since moving operations to East Lansing in 2022, the store has gained more customers and traffic, Lonnie said.

“In Okemos, there was a pretty good amount of people, but a lot of more older-age people,” Lonnie said. “There's a lot more younger people and a lot more energy in East Lansing, so we moved here, and it's just been a big help."

Lonnie Smith attributed the store's decision to reopen to the lack of a proper welcome from the city of East Lansing. The city apologized for this oversight and actively encouraged a grand reopening to ensure the public is aware that the store is open for business.

"We are excited to rewelcome House of Soles to downtown East Lansing. House of Soles serves as a unique space for sneaker and apparel lovers to come together and find community," said City of East Lansing Community and Economic Development Specialist Matt Apostle. "We are glad they are continuing to grow as a business within our downtown."

"We were just young kids selling sneakers on the street, and we really wanted to create a safe haven and make a community where you can come in and buy or sell sneakers, so that really prompted us to start a sneaker store," Lonnie Smith said. "Anybody can stop by. If they just do not even want to buy shoes, just want to come in and talk sports or shoes or anything they want to talk about; they can always come in."

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Lonnie Smith said his hope for the future is to expand the business into other areas around Michigan and to serve more communities.

"We want to continue to get more involved with our community," Lonnie Smith said. "We hope to possibly do a sneaker festival and have a whole bunch of different people coming and sell their own sneakers at their tables, and it's kind of have a fun engaging community event. We hope to do that and then hopefully franchise more stores in areas like Grand Rapids."

House of Soles is located 543 E. Grand River Ave. in downtown East Lansing, open from 12 to 6 P.M. Monday through Saturday and closed on Sundays.


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