Deshawn J. Snelson named his high-end sportswear emporium Hype Kingdom for a special reason. The letters in the word Hype stand for “Help your people elevate.” The 23-year-old Black entrepreneur strives to be a role model for young people of color in Los Angeles.
Now Snelson is plotting his next moves after burglars stole an estimated $100,000 in shoes, clothing and other merchandise from his shop in a Bellflower shopping center Sunday. He says video captured by the store’s security cameras at about 4:45 a.m. shows a gray sedan repeatedly plowing into the front of the shop before 15 people rush in and grab whatever they can carry.
Snelson, who goes by DJ, arrived at the shopping complex on Lakewood Boulevard on Sunday morning to discover that the car the burglars left sitting in the showroom appeared to be a government vehicle.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said the four-door Hyundai Sonata had government plates and was believed to be used by a U.S. naval recruiting station, although no theft of a car of that description had yet been reported. No one was in custody in the theft as of Sunday afternoon, authorities said, and the case was under investigation.
Standing outside the shop next to piles of shattered glass from the destroyed storefront, Snelson was not only feeling shaken by the brazenness of the burglary but also chastened. This was supposed to be a day of celebration. His second location in Huntington Park was set to hold its grand opening just hours after the break-in .
Snelson took to social media to tell customers that the opening had been called off because of the theft and the damage done at the Bellflower shop. He’s considering not going through with the second store opening at all, because it is located in a similarly out-of-the way spot in a shopping complex.
Hype Kingdom has gained a following by offering what Snelson describes as “highly sought-after and exclusive” sneakers that can’t be found elsewhere — Air Jordans, Adidas, Yeezy and other popular labels.
This wasn’t the first time the Bellflower store had been targeted, he says. Someone tried to break into the shop days before Christmas, prompting Snelson to reinforce the storefront’s windows with panels of plywood. Now there is a gaping hole in the front of the store and bits of broken glass scattered on the emptied showroom floor.
Given his concerns about security, Snelson says he’s considering moving the shop to a site that’s not as exposed as the current location — “somewhere safe.” For now, he’ll focus on serving customers on his shop’s online retail site.
“This can’t break me,” he says. “I’m going to come back stronger.”
It pains Snelson to have to talk about security for a business that he sees as offering a source of inspiration.
The native of Carson says he’s been selling shoes since he was a teenager. He designed Hype Kingdom to be a cut above other shoe stores in his South L.A. community while still being accessible and welcoming. And as a Black entrepreneur who understands how hard it can be for people of color to get ahead in Southern California, he wants to show other Black and brown residents in the community that they can realize their dreams.
Snelson goes back to the uplifting message embedded in the store’s name.
“I’m still going to stand by that,” he says. “I’m going to show people in my community that you can do something positive instead of tear each other down.”