That Mall is sick and that Store is dead!

March 5, 2022

The Sneaker Stadium / Just for Feet Post (1996-2000)

Filed under: dead chains,Hampton,Newport News,newspaper clippings,signs — Anita @ 12:17 am

Sneaker Stadium and Just for Feet’s entrance into the Hampton and Newport News marketplace is easily one of the most short lived of the short lived of the short lived. Short Short. I wanted to preface this short history with this article from 2000:

Yup, these stores opened in March and July of that year. Their closure was announced in November.

How did we get here? Let’s start with the opening of a new shoe retailer called Sneaker Stadium.

This photo comes from that property database photo entry I did years ago.

Sneaker Stadium (which was a brand new company, 18 months old) was announced as a tenant at the Riverdale Shopping Center in late 1996:

This article is sad to read, considering that three years later, Riverdale shopping center would be completely vacant on one whole side when Hills closed in 1997, the sneaker store closed in 2000, and Super Fresh/Farmer Jack’s closed in 1998. This whole side would stay abandoned for geez, nearly 15 years? Thankfully, Kroger, At Home and Conn’s moved in and the shopping center is alive again.

The store had a small basketball court and a track that wrapped around the store so you could try your shoes on before buying. Which is a little ick, but ok.

I can’t find any opening day ads, or an article about the store’s opening day, the next thing I found was the news that the chain was being bought by Just for Feet in November of 1998:

Buying Sneaker Stadium was a big mistake for Just for Feet, but more on that later. Their second biggest mistake happened just a few weeks after this article ran.

They ran the dumbest Super Bowl ad ever.

Now, there is a lot “they said” they said” about what went wrong with this ad. According to an article from Salon the time, Just for Feet spent $7 million on the premium ad time (during the 3rd quarter) and the ad agency for the commercial. CEO Harold Ruttenberg thought the company was going to run a wholesome, “fun” ad: “We’re a family type of retailer that caters to a family atmosphere,” he says. “We’ve got shoes we sell. We’ve got a public that we love. It’s a very dynamic atmosphere we have in our stores. Here was an opportunity to tell our story to the largest audience in the world.” 2

More from Harold:

First-time Super Bowl advertiser Just For Feet will use its third-quarter spot as a promotional vehicle, offering consumers a chance to win a Hummer if they can identify the secret message within the spot.

Launching its first national campaign via Saatchi & Saatchi, Rochester, N.Y., the large-format athletic shoe and apparel retailer will air what CEO Harold Ruttenberg described as a brand spot, but one in which viewers will be asked to find a hidden message. Fifteen-second teasers on both the NFC and AFC championship games will bid viewers watch and tape the Super Bowl spot to glean the message, then enter to win via an 800 number or JFF’s Web site. The 1,300th correct answer wins the Hummer, tying in with JFF’s longstanding “the 13th pair is free” frequency program. Another 100 callers or Web surfers with the correct answer get a free pair of shoes at JFF and 100,000 will get JFF T-shirts.

“It’s not something that will jump out at you, so people are probably going to have to tape it,” said Ruttenberg.

While reluctant to reveal specific creative details, Ruttenberg said the humorous ad takes place in Kenya and centers on a world champion long-distance runner, while showcasing JFF’s penchant for service and selection. The Hummer wilt make its debut as a brand icon for the chain. “We are trying to tell people that don’t know us yet that we are alive, that we are not just another big box store,” he said. 6

Well, it didn’t go this way.

I like this description of the ad, so I’m pasting it here 3:

The advertising agency, Saatchi and Saatchi stated that the ad was a humorous spoof on “how Just for Feet employees can be so passionate about their jobs that they sometimes do the wrong thing”. 4 Just For Feet wasn’t having it, so they sued Saatchi & Saatchi for the terrible commercial, and Fox for bumping the commercial to the fourth quarter of the game.

When I was in high school, I thought that Reebok had partnered with the rapper, DMX on some shoes.

I almost forgot to mention the most horrifying thing about this ad — their website was I wonder how much they had to pay for that domain name back then, they were probably in a bidding war with a fetish site.

In July of 1999, another Just for Feet opened nearby in Newport News.

I was watching some Just for Feet commercials outside of the notorious Super Bowl ad, and there was something I noticed, follow along with me:

every single one of the shoes in their commercials are discontinued. Fashion conscious kids don’t want sneakers from last year, last season, whatever. Also, something I didn’t learn until the other night, the demand for sneakers were dwindling at the time. 5

Almost a year to the day of the announcement that Just for Feet was buying Sneaker Stadium, it was announced that the Hampton and Newport News stores would be closing along with 35 other stores.

There was ~drama~ during the store closing sale near the end of February of 2000. I mean, look at the meh shoes in those commercials.


People were fighting over those.

…lots of Reeboks left.

Carla’s kid is 21 years old now. I wonder if his mom ever tells them the story of how she was 7 months pregnant, working at a shoe store that was going out of business. I love how the store selling popcorn was a sign for Kathi that the store wasn’t working out. I hope she finished college eventually.

A store in Florida never opened, despite cutting down a whole bunch of trees:

In 2002, it was announced that World Market would be opening at the Newport News location.

The location in Hampton stayed closed for way longer. It had a brief stint as a bedroom store sometime in 2007.

This is a photo I took of the back entrance in 2013 shortly after Planet Fitness moved in.

It was finally taken down when the shopping center had a renovation. This is from 2019.

  1. Pegler, Martin M. Lifestyle Stores. Glen Cove, NY : New York, NY: Architecture & Interior Design Library ; Distributor to the book trade in the United States and Canada, Rizzoli International Publications through St. Martin’s Press : Distributor to the art trade in the United States and Canada, PBC International, 1996. 128-129.
  2. Shalit, Ruth. “The Ad from Hell.” Salon, May 28, 1999. //
  3. Horowitz, Adam. The Dumbest Moments in Business History: Useless Products, Ruinous Deals, Clueless Bosses, and Other Signs of Unintelligent Life in the Workplace. New York: Portfolio, 2004. 88.
  4. Kanner, Bernice. The Super Bowl of Advertising: How the Commercials Won the Game. 1st ed. Princeton, N.J: Bloomberg Press, 2004. 130.
  5. Kaufman, Leslie. ‘Cooling Consumer Demand for Athletic Shoes Shrinks Nike’s Profit’. The New York Times, 9 February 2000, sec. Business.
  6. Lefton, Terry. “JFFeet Gets Crafty in Bowl Ad.” Brandweek, vol. 40, no. 2, Jan. 1999, p. 3.

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