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From Baltimore to Jamaica

Shooter's Sports is an urban clothing line whose threads have been sighted on local hip-hop artists such as 50 Cent and Ja Rule, Murder Inc. co-founder Irv Gotti, NBA superstar Allen Iverson and former New York Knicks forward Michael Sweetney. "It's the unsigned hype of the streets," said Robert George, aka "Shooter Rob," the founder of Shooter's Sports.The clothing line was started by George back in 1997 with a store in downtown Washington, D.C. The company has since branched out to other locations in Maryland and can even be found on Jamaica Avenue Ð only one of two Shooter's Sports locations in the city (the other, in the Bronx, opened in 2004), where it has been in the Gertz Mall since 2002. Rahsaan Humphrey, 32, is the manager and owner of the Shooter's Sports at 162-10 Jamaica Ave. He said he first got involved in the clothing as a student at Morgan State University in Baltimore, where he fell in love with the line and met up with people affiliated with the clothing. He then got the go-ahead to open the store from George.Humphrey said when he started wearing the clothes in Queens during his college breaks, his friends also began to get hooked on the merchandise."To me, that was like a buying signal," he said of his motivation to open a Shooter's in the borough."The Gertz Mall was something to try because it was a small store with not a big overhead. It was a trial and error to see if the people in New York would feel the same vision that I felt, and they did," said Humphrey. "The name Shooter's alone gives the urban community the raise of the eyebrow like 'that's hot'," he said.The brand name may be misconstrued as promoting violence, but Humphrey said the opposite is true. "That's the first question I get here Ð "What is Shooters?" He said the word "shooter" is used as urging youths to shoot for their goals. "That's the positive meaning of it. It's turning a negative stereotype (violence) into a positive image." Humphrey said because his store is "in a down-low spot" in the mall Ð towards the back and virtually out of sight to pedestrians walking along crowded Jamaica AvenueÐ it gives customers a feeling of exclusivity, which can be a double-edged sword."It's not the easiest access because we're not (at the front of) Jamaica Avenue. The name has buzz, but if you don't know where to get it, you won't," he said of the Shooter's sweat suits, colorful long-sleeve shirts and flamboyant jackets. "I want to sell faster, but it gives it its uniqueness. (The customers) feel that it's more exclusive to them because nobody knows where to get it from," Humphrey said, noting that the business has been a "word-of-mouth type of promotion for the past three years."Shooter's Sports sweat suits cost $150; long-sleeved shirts are priced at $45. Its exclusive jackets run between $250 and $300.Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173

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