Rontavious Coley has never been afraid to try something new and different. Stepping out, pun intended, with his Early Way on Broad boutique sneaker shoe shop, “Tay,” as he is known to his friends, has filled a void that many folks would never have realized existed.
His introduction to the sneakers market came when someone tried to buy the shoes off his feet. It was 2016, and someone took a liking to the Nike Air Jordan 12 Gamma shoes. “It was a pretty rare shoe at the time,” Coley said.
The name Early Way on Broad grew from the days when he sold shoes out of his house and car. Whenever someone would call, he would be there in a hurry. His logo features a brightly colored bird reminiscent of a woodpecker. “You know the early bird,” Tay said.
Coley started The Early Way at 326 Broad Street, but earlier this year, he took advantage of an opening at 200 Broad Street to move his shop into a larger space. The change offered him the chance to greatly expand his line of merchandise and showcase it in a significantly grander fashion, befitting the product line. In addition, Tay said the change has provided him with the opportunity to give his customers, many of them from well outside of Rome and Floyd County, a more enjoyable shopping experience.
“The shoe market does not really have an age limit,” Coley said. So you’ve got to think that when shoes started popping in the 70s and 80s, Sneakerheads are 60 years old now.” His customers range from those young adults who want high- quality shoes for their toddlers just learning to walk up to those who have been wearing fashionable footwear for 30 or 40 years. “I would say the target audience we mostly appeal to is those from 14 to 35, so it’s a pretty wide age range,” Coley said. In addition to high-end sneakers, Easy Way on Broad also sells fashionable T-shirts, shorts, caps, and other accessories.
The new location at the corner of Second Avenue and Broad Street has been very good for Coley and his staff. He believes that the Rome market is growing and sees significant opportunities to grow his business along with the city. While embracing the new location, Coley has also embraced some businesses near The Early Way. “We love being a part of the downtown community,” Tay said.
He’s also just received a beer and wine pouring license with the opportunity to offer some forms of entertainment from the city. He plans to use the mezzanine section of the store to host special events several times a month. “We want to have something at least every other weekend,” Coley said. “We want to incorporate the sneaker lifestyle where everyone comes around and socializes. We want the Sneakerheads and anyone else to have a place where they feel accepted by like people.”
Coley attended Anna K. Davie Elementary School in South Rome and is a 2014 graduate of Rome High School. He’s been enrolled at Georgia Highlands College, where he is seeking a degree in Healthcare Management.
When Coley can find some spare time away from his store, he enjoys coaching youth basketball and mentoring kids in middle school. In addition, he has been active with the minority male initiative at Georgia Highlands College, Brother 2 Brother, which strives to enroll, retain and graduate African-American young men.