I was always too late to catch RIF LA during store hours. I’ve never been to Flight Club either. My middle-high school self would be weak in that kind of environment. But RIF LA, which holds a limited collection of sought-after sneakers and offers services such as consignment, has drawn attention to those seeking to preserve their youth through sneakers.
RIF is family-based; the relationships developed help them function. San Francisco could only hope to be another welcoming location. Then that was when I got a text from my friend Ange, insisting I go to Japantown for a job interview to work at RIF SF. Wait, we’re going to have a RIF SF? I ended up not applying.
“We just expanded to SF because we felt like we had to lock down the West Coast before we move anywhere else. We thought this was a good fit,” says Connor Tapley. “We saw Japantown, kept with the whole theme and idea coming from Little Tokyo in LA to Japantown here was seamless and fluid to transition here.” Tapley, a tall kid whose voice sounded as if he was 23, manages the store in Japantown SF, where we met. He’s an LA native, however, and has been working at RIF for almost 3 years. “I asked for a job when I was 13 and they said, ‘Come back when you’re 16.’ I just walked back in. They said, ‘Okay, if you’re down, then work.’ That’s how everyone got it. Just chopping it up, selling shoes and buying shoes.” Connor is nineteen. He mentioned that RIF SF hired guys even younger than him, and that it was typical to hire youngins back at RIF LA. Sneakers and the youth go hand-in-hand.
I cannot recall San Francisco having a really solid sneaker shop - at least as solid as RIF or Flight Club - other than Undefeated. There was a wildfire of enthusiasm once the word got out about RIF SF. “We didn’t know anyone here [in SF], we just posted it up on IG, like, ‘Come through if you want a job.’ And we did interviews with like 50 people for like 2 hours,” explains Tapley. “We chose the good guys, luckily it worked out. At first, it looked like a line for Supremes or camping out for J’s. All these people flocked around us.” RIF LA relies heavily on relationships. There was no need for a hiring process back at RIF LA, because everyone there already had genuine relationships with one another.
“TO GET EVERYTHING UP AND RUNNING, WE HAD TO USE OUR OWN SHOES.”
RIF doesn’t like empty shelves. Walls have to be complete, or the OCD will start to kick in, as it did for me. Eventually Connor told the new employees that all shelves must be occupied and filled. Opening this shop was almost entirely a different process. “For opening this shop, we did it different. We used all our own shoes that we [bought] back for the past months and years. From this week alone, we’ve had a couple hundred pairs from consignment, but to get everything up and running, we had to use our own shoes. But now its filling up with everyone else’s cause they’re hearing about us.”
I asked Connor if there was anything he’d like for us to know, besides the fact that there are plans for our own RIF Dos, and he responded with talks about RIF’s clothing. “…We want to expand that. The main thing we want to do. Not only expand the shop, but our brand. Branding RIF through merchandise. We just had our first full season of clothing and apparel (Fall/Winter)… People like RIF, they don’t just want a shopping bag, they want a shirt to go with it. We’re also developing designs as well so it’s a big thing I’m looking forward to.”