The streetwear rumor mill has gone into overdrive lately, suggesting Supreme is set to open a store in San Francisco. This came after the leak of a letter which apparently signaled the brand’s intentions. Having opened a retail space most recently in Brooklyn last October, many thought a new European destination such as Milan or Berlin could be next. But the New York streetwear behemoth has instead opted to expand its North American portfolio with second California spot, to be located at 1011 Market Street in San Francisco’s mid-Market area.
With investment from The Carlyle Group in 2017, Supreme’s retail expansion is an inevitable progression for a brand that is reluctant to enter the wholesale game, Rei Kawakubo’s Dover Street Market outlets excepted. Expanding Supreme’s footprint in bricks and mortar is the best way to improve distribution without compromising on exclusivity or integrity. And in the context of Supreme’s place in history as an independent skate store and hub for the New York skate community, opening a San Francisco location makes perfect sense.
Since the ’80s, San Francisco has been one of the skateboarding world’s prime destinations, thanks to its legendary skate spots, world-renowned skaters, and some of the industry’s most respected brands. The ’80s era was dominated by the vert riding scene, with the focus on big-air skaters such as Christian Hosoi, Mark “Gator” Rogowski, and Tony Hawk, whose contest runs and demos on purpose-built half-pipes and public skateparks were all over magazines and videos. With the growing popularity of VHS videos, skaters could watch and study their idols’ style and tricks from the comfort of their own homes. But with full-size half-pipes and skateparks still few and far between, these California vert sessions felt like a world away for the majority of skaters.
That all changed in 1985 with the arrival of Powell Peralta’s Future Primitive, the first video with a segment dedicated to street skating. Here you could watch San Francisco native Tommy Guerrero showcasing his hometown’s steep hill runs as an ad hoc alternative to skateparks and half-pipes, capturing the imagination of skaters worldwide.
If Future Primitive set the street-skating scene, then Natas Kaupas’ legendary part in Santa Cruz Skateboards’ 1989 Streets on Fire blew it up completely, cementing San Francisco’s city terrain as an essential street-skating destination. Alongside the infamous hills (bombing hills is a local rite of passage), the city is and has been home to such iconic skate spots as the Chinatown Banks, 3rd and Army, Hubba Hideout, John Cardiel’s rail in Union Square, and Pier 7, but none is more revered than the legendary Embarcadero.
The Embarcadero’s Justin Herman Plaza (now named simply Embarcadero Plaza) is a short 15-minute push from the location of Supreme’s rumored new store, and was undoubtedly the world’s most famous skate spot throughout the ’90s thanks to its open spaces surrounded by cement stairs and ledges. The Embarcadero’s local crew, the “EMB” (Embarco’s Most Blunted), included Mike Carroll, Jovontae Turner, James Kelch, and Henry Sanchez, and their dominance of the spot could prove fairly intimidating to traveling skaters.
Throughout the ’90s, a surefire way for skaters to impress was to land a trick over the “Gonz Gap” at the Embarcadero. This huge gap between the wave-shaped wall and a raised platform was first cleared by current Supreme collaborator Mark Gonzales, who was visiting SF in 1986 on a shoot for SF-based skateboard bible Thrasher magazine. When photographer Mörizen “Mofo” Föche suggested he ollied the vast space, Gonzales balked. Mofo bluffed, telling Gonzales he’d already seen a local skater clear the gap, so Gonzales stepped up, made it, and the area has been dubbed the “Gonz Gap” ever since.
Years passed before anyone landed a trick over the gap, until Gonzales himself returned to pull off a kickflip as he cleared the void. His achievement opened the door to both local and traveling skaters to pull off ever-more daring “Gonz Gap” feats, with Jeremy Wray landing a frontside half cab, and Long Island’s Gino Iannucci pulling off an insane backside 180 heelflip.
Not only has the Golden Gate city been home to some of the most iconic spots and legendary skateboarders, it’s also home to some of the skate industry’s most revered brands. One of Supreme’s potential new neighbors on Market Street is DLXSF, Deluxe Distribution’s retail outlet. Founded in 1986 by Brian Ware and the late Fausto Vitello, Deluxe is fronted by skateboarding’s Mr. Nice Guy, Jim Thiebaud, and the formidable Mickey Reyes. Its portfolio of brands includes Spitfire Wheels, Real, Krooked, Thunder Trucks, and Julien Stranger’s iconic Anti Hero Skateboards. Thrasher magazine has been a San Fransisco skating institution for 37 years, while the city also houses Independent Truck Company’s manufacturer Ermico Enterprises Inc. HUF, meanwhile, relocated to the city from New York.
With all of this skateboarding history, this city that is synonymous with the Beat Generation, civil rights, and sexual liberation is a perfect fit for Supreme — a brand synonymous with the free-spiritedness and progressive values San Francisco embodies. Welcome home.
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