Photo by OCW StaffIf you have a blowout going south on the Costa Mesa Freeway just past the Santa Ana interchange, you might find Shelter Streetwear the hard way. It's just on the other side of a chainlink fence and down the street: a flick of the wrist away, in racing terms. You should definitely have a blowout; otherwise, it's tucked away on the end of an industrial street that, if you're lucky, you might find just before you get lost.
Which is a good thing: being tucked away in a 3,000-square-foot light-industrial unit in Santa Ana equals savings owner Chris Gronowski passes on to you—the mom and/or dad. Savings of at least 25 percent off some of Orange County's hottest surf- and skatewear brands. Volcom, Krew, RVCA, Tankfarm, Ambiguous—they're all here: yesterday's designs by today's labels. Yesterday's designs? Literally.
"We get stuff that just came out maybe a couple of months ago," says Gronowski, a man in white creepers who appears to be growing out a faux-hawk with blond highlights. "Even though it's fall in the stores, they're already working on spring and summer."
Fashion has an insect's attention span (except locusts, the pastels in nature's half-acre: back like Don Johnson), meaning the early-fall stuff has already peaked and anything the big boys like PacSun can't move is getting the stink-eye from the store manager as he scrolls down his speed dial looking for someone like Gronowski.
He's looking to unload puffy, quilted RVCA jackets that remind you of a zip-out liner or old Eddie Bauer; flip-flops and sandals that somehow didn't all get sold; thick, comfy hoodies by Krew; Charlie Brown-esque T-shirts with an argyle pattern from Ambiguous; and trucker hats. They're all here.
At Shelter, yesterday's discounted designs are tomorrow's Christmas presents, a bit of strategy that has helped them not only snare the wary 16-to-30 age bracket, but also stay afloat eight years and pay for all those (full disclosure) Weekly ads. Shelter has been around so long they're starting to move into things like women's and girls' clothing and skateboards, with brands such as Vision and Dynasty that could be the fashion fountain of youth.
"We're more fashion conscious than some skate shops," Gronowski says; what he doesn't have to add is they're also more skate conscious than some of the fashion stores. They're like Active for tightwads or your folks—people whom, he emphasizes, "need to save money now more than ever."
Shelter Streetwear, 2255 Ritchey St., Santa Ana, (714) 424-0772.