We’re attached to our sneakers in so many ways. Maybe we’re looking for a way to quite literally put our best foot forward. We want our feet to feel good and, at the same time, express ourselves in a cool, fashionable way.
Regardless of the reason, sneakers are a multibillion dollar industry.
Two Anderson University students who are self-professed sneaker lovers saw potential in sneakers already worn, but still with life in them. They named their business Sneaker Salvage, because they take used sneakers and make them like new, then sell them at an affordable price.
Patrick Polston is a senior majoring in Secondary Education and minoring in Youth Ministry. His interest in education grew out of an experience as a teacher cadet in high school. Recognizing the impact he can make on students, Polston feels God is calling him into education, but also to minister to youth.
Olivia Jones is a junior and double major in Christian Studies and Mass Communication. She and her brother Nathan, who is current Student Government Association President, both recently became U.S. Citizens—Nathan in 2020 and Olivia in 2021. Their journey to the United States began when her father enrolled at Dallas Theological Seminary to prepare for ministry (he currently serves as an adjunct professor at Anderson University). Though Olivia and Nathan have been in the U.S. most of their lives, the path to citizenship has taken several years.
Polston and Jones, friends with a mutual appreciation for footwear, feel that they’re onto something more than just cleaning and fixing sneakers. Polston was inspired by a video he saw on YouTube about restoring sneakers. Looking at his own shoes with dangerously worn soles, he started thinking about how others, like him, could have high quality name brand sneakers without the sticker shock of new ones.
Jones recalled, “We went to Goodwill and bought one pair of shoes to begin with and spent a good five or six bucks. From there it continued to grow. We would get more pairs of shoes and clean them up; then, after we would clean them, Patrick came to me and he was like ‘all right, we’ve got to get an Instagram running.’”
Polston and Jones check eBay, Goat, StockX or other shoe reselling places to determine the market for particular shoe styles. Together they evaluate whether a pair is a good candidate for restoration. The decision is driven partly by style, but also condition. They’ll reject a shoe that’s torn or worn bald, or in otherwise disgusting condition.
“Patrick’s more of a big idea kind of person and I’m much more of a detail person,” Jones said.
Polston and Jones set up an Instagram account (Sneaker_Salvage), where they display sneakers they restore and announce “sneaker drops,” offering their “like new” shoes for sale, usually for around $15 to $25 a pair.
Polston said “We want it to just be a very simple and community-driven way of purchasing, so we’ll obtain a sneaker either through purchasing or donations, we’ll clean it up and restore it to as close to brand new as we can, then we post it as an Instagram post on our account.”
So far their primary Sneaker Salvage customers have been other Anderson University students and friends, but their Instagram following is growing, slowly but steadily.
Restoring sneakers and selling them for a modest profit is just part of the idea behind Sneaker Salvage.
“Obviously we’re going to be public about that and we’re not going to be ashamed of the faith we have. We want to bring into play that we’ve been restored in Christ and are being restored and transformed daily. It’s also something we want to do with shoes,” said Jones, who along with Polston pray over each pair of shoes before restoration begins.
“We feel like we can be purposeful and also be helping other people, because I think we both have some kind of drive for ministry,” Jones said. “Even though it might not look like leading in a church, it might be just a small sneaker business to help people any way we can, just to provide means for a cheaper shoe, a nicer shoe, in that kind of capacity.”
For someone who’s attached to their own sneakers, Sneaker Salvage will also restore them at a modest price.
“The heart of the business isn’t purely to make money, it’s to impact the lives of the people who buy shoes from us,” Polston said.