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Sole of the City

Local company designs shoes that say Memphis.

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Local clothing designer Checliss Rice always wanted his own shoe line, but he didn't want to step on anybody's toes.

So Rice hit on an untapped market -- an urban athletic footwear line designed to represent Memphis. Last summer, Rice launched "the M-Town" shoe, a colorful, leather sneaker with an "M" logo on the side.

"We didn't have anything to rep where we're from when we went out of town," said Rice, a former real estate investor. "In New York and Atlanta, they have the hats [with the city's name]. These shoes strictly represent Memphis."

There are currently four styles of the M-Town being sold in local stores such as Greg's, Marty's, City Gear, and Athlete's Foot.

"The Mound" is an orange and white sneaker designed to represent the Orange Mound area, although Rice says University of Tennessee can fans wear them too. "The Marley" is a black, green, and yellow shoe named after Jamaican reggae legend Bob Marley. A blue and white shoe is named "The 5-0" in honor of Rice's police-officer brother, and "The Mayor" shoe is a black and grey shoe.

"It's black and grey because our mayor's black, and the platinum/silver stands for quality," said Rice.

Rice says they'll be launching other designs at the end of May, as well as a limited-edition sneaker called "The Baller." They'll make 300 of those black-on-black patent-leather shoes. Rice also has M-Town shoes for women with names such as "Panther" and "Sunrise."

Rice started Gametime Athletics in 2003 during the throwback-jersey craze. He designed replicas of high school and college jerseys and produced a few for a local record label.

"People saw them and liked them. They told one person, and that person told somebody else. It just snowballed from there," said Rice.

With a current staff of eight employees, Gametime Athletics produces hats, T-shirts, and M-Town shoes. Rice says plans are in the works to bring customized city shoes to Houston ("the H-Town"), Nashville ("the Cashville"), and Jackson, Mississippi ("the Jack-Town"), this summer. He also plans to launch shoes for Indianapolis, Dallas, Miami, Birmingham, and Orlando.

"Every four to six weeks, we're going to bring out another four colors. The people will determine which are the hottest," says Rice. "Some people will get every color."

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