How Matt Tomamichel’s Corporate x Jordan collaboration was 15 years in the making.
In 2008, Matt Tomamichel opened a sneaker store in his hometown of Cincinnati.
Through the years and with several locations from Indiana to Dayton, Corporate has become a hub for community activations, charity-driven events, and for locals who love sneakers.
After becoming one of the first NBHD (neighborhood) retailers, a Nike codename for retail partners in key markets, to tell the story around the Air Jordan 1 High OG “Rebellionaire,” Corporate and Jordan Brand worked together once more with a collaborative Jordan Airship – the shoe Michael Jordan wore prior to the Air Jordan 1.
We spoke with Corporate founder Tomamichel about the brick and mortar’s origins, the significance of the project, and what’s next.
Nice Kicks: How did you get into sneakers?
Matt Tomamichel: I started at Footaction at the mall in 2002 and worked there throughout high school. I then went to Wright State University – a horrible idea. I’d go to school during the week and work at Footaction on the weekends.
NK: What inspired you to open your own store?
MT: Unfortunately, I had a friend pass away in 2006, and the last conversation we had was in the mall. He just told me, “One day you’ve got to have your own store, man.” That night, I passed out after night class; I didn’t get up. He went out and was murdered.
On the shoe, it reads “We did it Aub.”
It’s a reference to him and his support. I feel like him and I have had constant communication throughout my journey.
NK: How did Corporate Got ‘Em start?
MT: I was big on NikeTalk back in the day, posting information because I had a guy at Nike giving me the inside scoop. This guy out of Minnesota was taking note of it. He messaged me when I got off the board, “Yo, I’ve been taking your advice, and you’ve been helping my business.” They didn’t know how to ship out phone orders, so I flew up there.
At the end of the weekend, I was so sad because I had to go home. The store couldn’t hire me since they were still a young business. I was crushed. I came back to my boss back home, and they offered to transfer me to work at the Mall of America location.
I went back up, and he shared the spare bedroom while I interned at this store for six months. He expanded and opened up a store in Columbus in 2007. But then the recession hit us, and it all fell apart at once.
“Yo, I’m gonna have to close down that store; I can’t afford to keep it open.”
I told myself I was going to open my shop and keep this Nike account open. We did it. I bought the LLC for $1, did a change of address with Nike, and I moved to Cincinnati.
NK: How did your shop get its name?
MT: Corporate started off on Blogspot. The name was originally CorpStat.blogspot.com.
One day, I’m at Footaction where I originally worked, and my buddy was on the phone with a customer. The customer asked for something, and he said, “Nah, we ain’t got them; Corporate got them.” I asked what he said and he said, “I tell everybody, ‘Corporate got them.’”
NK: Can you walk us through some of the key design details of the Corporate Air Ship?
MT: I wanted it to be premium. On the toe box, we used nubuck because this is the area where scuffs happen. The suede we use brushes – it’s the longest length that [Jordan Brand] has used in a long time. The embroidery was tonal, but we did pop it with the white, so it stands out. I’m a two-lace guy because you have to give them that tonal look because there’s somebody that wants all green.
You’re always representing yourself, but you don’t ever forget to represent where you’re from. I made sure to call that out in the collar where it says “For The City.”
NK: Corporate and Cincinnati are best known for black, red, and white. Why turquoise?
MT: I thought about what if we tell the story from the perspective of what did it take to get here? It’s funny because this color actually is a color from the beginning of Corporate. It was always there. Our first logo sketch came back in this color.
For me, the color teal always represented real royalty. When I think of Cincinnati, everybody is black and red. But for me, this statue is what I think about when I think about Cincinnati. It’s this fountain that’s in front of our Fountain Square. It’s beautiful at night. It’s the place that I go to think when I need a moment.
[The color] resonates with the greatness of my city. And for me, that’s what I want to represent – somebody reaching their greatness, and not only doing that, but inspiring the next person.
NK: What does the note in the shoe box say?
MT: “If I told a 16-year-old me I was going to one day work with ultimately my favorite brand in the world, I hope he’d go ‘No way.’ I hope you want to know about what it took to get here. I still can’t believe it sometimes myself – how my passion for sneakers and basketball has led to a 20-plus-year career in retail. I hope he was proud of the way I handled the problems in my life. I believe he’d be interested in Minneapolis and how I got to Columbus before returning home. I hope you’d wonder how bad the recession was and how my parents told me to jump when I told them I plan to open the shop. I hope you’d laugh at the name Corporate after I explain why it was named Corporate. Maybe I’ll tell him about the times I wanted to quit but people saw something in me that will make them encourage me to keep going. Networking not only opens the door to opportunity but could potentially keep the door open when you can’t yourself. I hope I get to explain to him that my community and my friends would become the family needed to succeed. I hope you’d understand it was worth it, and where Corporate is today is exactly what people need to show them to never give up.”
NK: What’s the legacy that you want to leave behind?
MT: I’m super blessed to have this role, but for me, it’s bigger than that. It’s about showing whoever does read my story or listen to anything I say, there’s definitely something bigger that we can achieve. It doesn’t have to be an “end all, be all” with sneakers.
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