Welcome to shoe biz, Derrick Williams

(Minneapolis Star Tribune) - Hang around Minnesota Timberwolves forward Derrick Williams' Target Center locker and something will strike you: The guy likes shoes.

Not just the fashionable leopard-print ones he wears to work, but the many basketball sneakers that cascade from his locker as if they were multiplying.

He likes them so much -- and has for so long -- that last month he and a friend opened a shoe/apparel store in Tucson, Ariz., called Grand VII Premium Sneakers and Streetwear.

He spoke recently about why he has turned his passion for collecting shoes into a business.

Q: Why Tucson?

A: I have a big fan base out there, and being from California, there are a lot of those shops in L.A., and when I got to school in Arizona, there weren't any. I really felt it'd be a good investment and good for the kids out there. Instead of waiting for things in the mail, they can go to my shop right down the street.

Q: Why a clothing/shoe store as one of your first big investments?

A: I've always wanted to do that type of store. I'm into things like that. I collect shoes. I feel like it's a good spot, and maybe open one more in California.

Q: Remember the first pair you bought?

A: With my money? Or should I say my mom's money? Probably the Tracy McGrady 2001 or 2002 All-Star Kicks, adidas. They're shiny blue. A lot of people who know shoes will know what I'm talking about. I think they were like $125.

Q: Did you really save up your school lunch money to buy shoes?

A: I saved my mom's money. She used to give me $5 a day to buy food, and sometimes I'd make my own food to save money so I eventually could buy me a few pairs of shoes.

Q: Did she find out you were doubledipping?

A: Yeah, she noticed it after a while. Where did you get all these shoes from? I told her and she said, 'Just tell me if you want shoes.' It took a while, but it was worth it.

Q: How many pair do you own?

A: Over 100, probably 150 or so.

Q: Is there a prized pair in there?

A: I have a few. I'd probably say my Olympic Jordan 6s that came out in 1996. I have those that are still in the box and I wore one time. I'd say a lot of shoe collectors would like to grab those off me.

Q: How many still fit?

A: I was growing when I was still in high school. I have a lot of size 13s that I just kept for hand-me-downs or a raffle thing. But I have a lot of size 14s and 15s, which is I what I wear now.

Q: Have you worn most of them?

A: Out of 100, I've probably worn 25 or 30. I just keep a lot of them in the box for myself or for hand-me-downs, whenever I have kids.

Q: Do you wear the same shoes every night?

A: I change every night pretty much. I've done that since high school, college. I'm always wearing different shoes every game: Jordan, Nike, adidas. I wear pretty much anything. I'm not (signed) with anybody right now.

Q: How many do you keep in your locker?

A: Right now, about 30.

Q: I read somewhere that you said you were "two feet in" with this enterprise. That's a good thing to be with a shoe store, isn't it?

A: Did I? I wish I had thought of that intentionally. I'll have to use that in the future.

(Contact Jerry Zgoda at jzgoda@startribune.com.)

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, shns.com.)

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