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Bonds’ ball helps boro man open shoe store

A proud Matt Murphy toasts his new high-end sneaker store in Manhattan. Photo by Ivan Pereira
By Ivan Pereira

Elmhurst native Matt Murphy said he was lucky to be at the right place at the right time when Barry Bonds' record-breaking home run ball flew into his hands last August.

Now he is using that luck to accomplish a dream he and his friends have been nurturing for a long time. Murphy showed off his high-end TriBeCa clothing store, Sole Food, Friday to friends, family and local artists.

"We wanted to make this a staple in the fashion and sneaker industry," said Murphy, 22.

The store, at 38 Lispenard St., was financed partially by the nearly $200,000 Murphy earned after he sold Bonds' 756th career home run baseball to fashion entrepreneur Marc Ecko in September. Unlike other city sneaker stores, Murphy's store sells high-priced foot ware tailored for those who want to look stylish and casual.

From top-of-the-line Air Jordan shoes to sneakers made out of stingray skins, Murphy and his co-owners, Jose Batilo and Mike Cole, said their customers would have a lot to choose from.

"You can base anything you want and have it on a sneaker," Murphy said.

In addition to the exotic selection of footwear, the store gives customers a new type of purchasing experience. Interested buyers can wait at diner booths for waiters and select their shoe on special touchscreen menus that give detailed descriptions of the catalogue.

Some customers can even meet with specialized artists and have shoes or T-shirts designed however they like.

"You come, you sit down, you look at a menu, you feel like you're eating, but you're buying shoes," Murphy said.

The Archbishop Molloy graduate said he is amazed that this vision came together, thanks to his fortunate night Aug. 7, 2007, at AT&T Park in San Francisco. He and friend Amir Kamal were sitting in the right center field bleachers when Bonds hit the home run that broke baseball's all-time career home run record.

After a small scramble among several San Francisco Giants fans, Murphy, who was wearing a Mets jersey, emerged victorious with the ball and was escorted out of the stadium. Three weeks later, he put the ball on the auction block and sold it to Ecko for $752,467.20.

Murphy then split the earnings after taxes with Kamal and decided to pursue his own ventures. He said he came up with the idea for the store with his business partners last June and with the extra cash was ready to commit to their vision.

"The money gave me the nerve to push the button," Murphy said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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