#ForCreativeSouls: Dante Rowley of Rosewood Speaks on His Journey

Dante Rowley outside of his shop Rosewood.   All images via Dante's personal Instagram:    DanteRowley

Dante Rowley outside of his shop Rosewood.

All images via Dante's personal Instagram: DanteRowley

I was recently able to sit down with the founder and owner of Rosewood, San Diego's premier consignment shop and sneaker staple for the city.  With Jazzy being from Daygo and this being the first installment of the #ForCreativeSouls interview series with her real friends, it was important I got the story all the way right.

Scroll down to read about Dante's creative journey that took him from art to sneakers to donuts (and back) how he overcame the struggles, setbacks, and triumphs that creative souls encounter and his upcoming project with Michael Vick. 

JDeLa: So for those who aren't aware of who you are, can we get a little bit of background?

Dante: My name is Dante Rowley. I’m best known for owning the sneaker shop Rosewood in San Diego.

You and Jazzy are from the same town. How did you guys link up?

I’m actually from Stockton originally but have lived in San Diego for the last eight or nine years. I hit up Jazzy when I was in the process of opening the shop because I wanted to get support from the sneakerheads in the city, as well as influential people in the sneaker community.

Rosewood is unique in that not only is it a consignment shop, but it also serves as an art gallery. What brought about that concept?

I’ve always really been into art. My brother was an art director at Yale and I actually pursued my master’s in fine art. When I was coming up with the idea for Rosewood, I was interning at the Museum of Contemporary Art here in San Diego. I originally wanted to open up a gallery, but my brother advised me to pair it with something else because it’s hard to make money off of just a gallery space. Shoes and art just seemed to make sense for me.

Rosewood is located in San Diego. What made you want to stay local and open up the shop there?

San Diego has a lot to offer. It’s a big city but it can seem small at times.  After I moved here, I knew I didn’t want to leave. The weather and the people are great.  Then, I saw a need for the shop here.

Do you feel like being in San Diego makes you different from other shops that are in California?

For sure. First off, there is less competition. If I opened this thing up in LA or the Bay Area, I would have been competing with so many other shops.

How is the sneaker/urban scene in Diego?

The scene here is pretty mixed. San Diego is full of people that migrated here from other areas, so there are different kinds of fashion that are always crossing paths. Especially since this is a military city.

You've hosted art shows at the shop before. Is there a specific show that stands out?

The first art show will always be the one I remember best. It took a year to really plan out. To give you a little background, I’ll start from the beginning.  I was writing and doing blog posts for the museum and I stumbled across a little-known artist at the time, Justin West.  I happened to see his art in the background of the ASAP Rocky video, ‘Purple Swag’, so I found him online and just chopped it up with him a little bit and told him I was going to make a little blog post about him on the museum’s Tumblr.  

Fast forward a year or so and I started the plan’s for Rosewood and I needed a featured artist. I flew out to New York and met Justin on the steps of the Met to pitch him my idea to bring him out to California for his first show on the west coast. He could see how committed I was and that's how we got it all started. Now he’s doing collabs with Bape and Levi’s and is blowing up. The process might be more memorable than the show, but that whole experience will always hold a special place in my heart.

Freehand Profit hosted an art show there. How was that experience and do you have a mask of his in the shop?

Freehand Profit (Gary) is one of my good friends now. We vibed from day 1.  He actually does most of our design work for all our gear.  Gary is a genius and is truly different than anyone who does sneaker-inspired art.  He has a lot of imitators now, but he’s the OG.  We’ve actually had a few shows for him throughout the years and it's always a good turnout.  I do have a personal mask he made me with the denim Jeremy Scott Wings but I keep it in my office at home. I’ll try to get him to send over some of the pictures he took of me wearing it.

Describe a typical day at the shop.

A typical day at the shop will sound kind of boring. I usually get in the store a few hours before opening and go over the sales from the day before. Then, I go over our books to see how much I can spend on product for the month to make sure we’re still on track.

I then start boxing up whatever online orders need to be fulfilled and answering emails. We get so many emails that it’s a full-time job just reading and responding to those. Then, I start taking product pictures of shoes and clothes that I think would sell quick or items that I think are underpriced.

Most of the day, I’m just hustling.

I try to find buyers for higher priced items and also ways to get our name out more. I feel like I’m a day trader and the shoes are my stocks.

What are some of the biggest struggles that you've had in the opening and maintaining of the shop?

The biggest struggle came when I opened the donut shop E.Vil Donuts (East Village Donuts). My head baker and manager had life threatening surgery two days before our grand opening and I was thrust into the role of a manager of a business, that I had no experience in. I was waking up at four in the morning to go into the donut shop, then going directly to Rosewood after and staying there until eight at night. 

I did that for about six months straight with no days off and I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown from all the pressure. Then I sold the donut shop and focused all of my energy back to Rosewood and we’ve been doing great ever since. During that time though, Rosewood didn't grow like it should have because I wasn’t there enough to oversee the daily operations.

Let's go back to when you were getting ready to open the store. Is there any one thing you would redo? Is there something you wish you knew then that you know now?

I should have hired someone to run our website off the bat.  We needed a better fraud protection service when we first opened. I was naive to think I could do it by myself. One day we had something like 15 thousand in fraudulent purchases and it forced us to shut down our credit card processors. It cost the business a lot of money in the long run.

If someone came to you asking advice on how to start a store, what would you say?

First, I would ask them what kind of store and where are they trying to open it. No way I’m going to give advice to anyone trying to open up a shoe store in San Diego.  I would tell them to kick rocks.  If it’s a general business question, I would be happy to help.  I would tell them to budget and make sure they have everything accounted for before they open. They would need to put their all into it and make sure that they understand that they may not make any money for the first year.

Is there anything that you would like to announce that you're working on?

I have a few things in the works. One is a sneaker store that is also a crowdfunded charity with Michael Vick.

How did you link up with Vick?

We have some mutual friends and one day he posted something about Rosewood on his Instagram and we started talking about how we could go into business together. We haven't finalized everything yet, so I don’t want to go into great detail about the business model.

What's the most crushing defeat or setback that you've had while running Rosewood?

Just chargebacks and thefts. It makes me sad every time something like that happens because I lose trust in people… Oh and Yelp reviews. F*ck Yelp.

What's the most uplifting thing that has come from Rosewood?

It’s awesome when people say how much they like the store. We have kids coming in every day saying that they want to intern. It’s cool to connect with new generations of sneaker heads.

Is there anything that you would like to say that we haven't touched on?

Umm… Free Kodak.