In November 2016, Ivar Blankevoort and his wife left their long, monotonous days in banking and marketing jobs in Geneva, Switzerland, to pursue a long-awaited dream in Las Vegas. After 15 years of comfortable Swiss living, Blankevoort, 30, is now the owner of Kaviar Kicks shoe store, which opened its doors April 1 in Downtown Container Park.
“It was scary at first,” Blankevoort says. “We just told each other we need to do this now. We saved up a little bit of money in Switzerland and decided to move our asses out here.”
Born in Glendale, California, Blankevoort attended high school in California and Las Vegas, as well as a vocational school in Nyon, Switzerland, where he ended up studying accounting and eventually transitioning to trademark prosecution and management for branding firms.
“I don’t feel rooted in any area in particular,” Blankevoort says. This perspective helped his willingness to move and create a career around his true passion: “I had a respect for shoes at a very young age. 1994 was a big turning point culturally for me, because I got into hip-hop. I got into sneakers. I got into basketball. Those things made my identity.”
Blankevoort put his personal shoe collection on a website he created himself as a trial run for his business. After it sold out within a week, he knew he wanted to pursue the shoe biz as a career. He’s continued to approach his business the same way—by professionally collecting and selling.
Located on the second floor of Container Park, Kaviar Kicks’ handmade wooden shelves that Blankevoort cut, sanded and painted himself are stocked with rare Adidas NMDs and Ultra Boosts as well as Nike Dunks and Foamposites, among others.
Photos by Krystal Ramirez
His mission to “re-infuse the ‘O.G.’ and classic sneaker styles” into the current shoe culture—think hype-driven celebrity fads such as Kanye West and his Yeezy Boost 350s everyone camps out for—is just getting started. The digital-era shoe market is about “the right plugs” from the right people and requires a little tech savvy, according to Blankevoort. Although this opens the access to collectible shoes, it still is an unreliable process that could result in counterfeits if the product is not coming from a trusted source. Kaviar Kicks hopes to influence and create more clarity in the sneaker market by carefully curating shoes rather than just trying to sell to the sneakerhead hype, Blankevoort notes. “I want to make [Kaviar Kicks] feel authentic and pure,” he says.
In June 2016, Blankevoort made connections with hip-hop artists including DJ Whoo Kid and Tdot Illdude, which caught the attention of Instagram followers seeing the guys rocking kicks from his consignment. Blankevoort understands the buzz a few shoutouts can create, particularly from a celeb endorsement.
“I gave Whoo Kid some Air Jordan 4 Retro ‘Cavs’ and Waka [Flocka] some Jordan 4 Columbia’s,” Blankevoort says.
He’s continuing to build his own social media presence by maintaining relationships with his customers, and it’s working. Since opening, Kaviar Kicks has already attracted customers from Florida and Texas, and internationally folks from countries such as Germany, Morocco and Chile have specifically sought out his store, he says.
“We just made something out of [a] feeling that we had, and now we’re building something bigger than our dreams.”
Kaviar Kicks is open Mon.–Thur. 11 a.m. – 9 p.m., Fri–Sat.. 11 a.m.- 10 p.m., and Sun. 11 a.m.-8 p.m.