Surrounded by so many other storefronts changing over from quinceañera shops and taco stands to high-end hipster eateries and streetwear boutiques, RIF in downtown SanTana are the new kids in SanTana now. But the opening of the sneaker consignment store is a move that indicates 4th Street is going to the next level in local, regional, and national prominence.
A quick primer for non-sneakerheads: RIF was the pioneer in the movement. Originally from Japan, it moved into Little Tokyo just over a decade ago before recently expanding to San Francisco and DTSA. According to RIF’s unofficial GM, Connor Tapley, the combination of SanTana’s growth and proximity to LA were the main reasons 4th Street was the perfect location.
“The owners wanted to be able to actually be inside the shop,” Tapley says. “This is only a 45-minute drive for them, so it’s still close, but we also had a lot of people who have shopped at the LA location for years but they can’t go up there as often because of the drive. That was a lot of what made us come down here.”
Like much of LA’s streetwear scene, Tapley had never been to Santa Ana before helping RIF open their store there. All he knew was that he’d been hearing about the burgeoning scene for a while and that they were taking over an old shoe store on one of the main streets. Having only opened a few weeks ago, RIF hasn’t yet gotten around to changing the old Krieger’s storefront, but that’s not going to happen until they get caught up on displaying all of the new and used Air Jordans, Adidas, Nikes, and other rare shoes that are currently just being stockpiled in the back.
“First of all, we need to open it up because we have another 200-300 shoes in the back that we can’t even bring out yet,” Tapley says. “We just want to keep filling out the whole sales floor, and then once we maximize the amount of product we can put out we’ll start making changes. It’s just one thing at a time, but the first thing is just to get all of the stuff out on the floor.”
With SanTana’s current leading sneaker store, Blends, just a few doors away from them and skate and streetwear shops like NOT.US and GCS not much farther, some might wonder why RIF is moving into an already crowded block-long marketplace. But RIF provides things that many of the other stores can’t. Beyond offering buybacks and consignment on used products, RIF will be giving the sneaker and streetwear collectors of OC the opportunity to see pieces in person without having to drive up to LA.
Whether it’s actually seeing the shine of a Supreme fire extinguisher for the first time or feeling the “remastered” quality on new Air Jordans on your fingertips, RIF appeals to the five senses in an industry where so many transactions happen online. Even if you’ll never be able to afford a $700 Supreme box logo hoodie or $1,500 Yeezys, seeing them all in real life beats scrolling through someone else’s Instagram feed.
“I think it really gives people a platform to see things in person that they’ve only seen online,” Tapley says. “Whether it’s a bunch of Jordans or Adidas or Nike shoes – or even Supreme clothes and accessories – a lot of people don’t have the chance to see it in person unless they have one or two friends who have it and just keep it in their closet. It’s almost like a museum in a sense.”
RIF can seem a bit overwhelming at first glance, particularly for people who know nothing about sneakers or streetwear. But whether you’re there to sell your kicks and clothes or buy new ones, it’s still a customer service-based retail business at its core. That means no matter how little you know or how dumb you think your question is, there are people in there who know what they’re talking about and will explain it to you. After all, even if they weren’t being paid to put up with your lack of knowledge, they’d probably still know more about shoes than you ever will anyway.
“You’re always welcome to come in and ask questions if you don’t know what it is,” Tapley says. “I have a lot of friends who say they walk past the store but won’t go in because the shoes are all wrapped in plastic, but you can always come in and talk to us. This isn’t a job, it’s more of a hobby. If we didn’t work here, we’d still be collecting all of this, so jus come in and ask us questions if you want to know about it.”
RIF OC, 208 E. 4th St. Santa Ana. Instagram: @rif.oc