One of the things I am most excited about with joining the Fatlace team is exploring this new interest of mine; sneakers and street wear. Having followed the Fatlace and Hellaflush blogs since the beginning, I’ve always known about the close connection to street fashion and sneakers. I was never too big into buying specific brands and hype shoes, but as my years went on building cars and traveling to shows and events, it seemed a matter of time before the worlds collided.
I ended up really becoming interested in the sneaker culture about 3-years ago after some friends pressured me into buying a pair of Jordans to replace my usual rotation of beat-to-death skate shoes or flip-flops fresh out the paint booth. What really did it was when I was introduced to the SNKRS app, and after my first W, I was hooked. I loved the thrill of the hunt for a shoe, as well as the collector mentality in the sneaker world. It was a perfect match for my personality.
Much like cars, I didn’t want to live in a completely digital world with sneakers. Through some car friends, I was able to join some sneaker groups on Facebook, a few of which were local to me. A few stores kept popping up with a lot of praise from locals and so I decided to visit them. While each one was cool, unique, and had great selections, there was one where I got a whole different experience, and that one was Piff.
Located a few miles from the heart of downtown Minneapolis, close to the U of M and Dinkytown, Piff has a small yet well curated selection of sneakers, street wear, and accessories ranging from the latest releases to some real gems. The store owner and main employee, Billy Crubaugh better known as OG Rob, is also about as friendly as a person you could meet. The first time I visited, I spent probably close to 3-hours chopping it up and didn’t even buy anything. I don’t know too many store owners that would take that kind of time with a window shopper. But, I remembered that experience and eventually became a customer, and a regular one at that.
Between the showroom, storefront, and owner that’s always down to talk about the culture, I thought it’d make a cool feature to share. Just like with cars, I think a lot of people overlook the Midwest when it comes to fashion and sneakers. Minneapolis and St. Paul are two incredibly diverse cities with a big art scene. There’s a lot of gems to uncover here if you’re willing to look around.
Piff opened its doors in September, 2014. Billy and his long-time friend and business partner, Ben, had already been buying, selling, and trading sneakers online through channels like eBay and Craigslist for years prior. The only chance locals got to meet up were through happenstance sneaker exchanges in parking lots and community centers. The two saw a void for a place for locals to buy and swap shoes, and the two cooked up Piff.
Strange name, some of you are probably thinking. That was one of the first things I asked Billy when I first visited. “Piff was derived from an alter ego ‘Scotty Piff.’ Also defined as ‘above average’ and commonly used in European countries to compliment people on their fashion (‘that’s Piff’), we felt this was a great fit and what we strive for our brand to be.”
A common theme among sneaker store owners is that the obsession, or collecting didn’t start a year or two prior to opening a business. OG Rob lives up to his name and traces his love for sneakers and street wear back to his childhood. “I recall asking my parents for specific pairs as young as 6 or 7. Once I was a teenager I would save my money from cutting grass, shoveling, etc. to add to my ‘shoe budget’ to pick out the best pair I could find/afford.” Growing up in Chicago with two older brothers during the Jordan era, Billy was always captivated by what the players were wearing on and off the court, as well as what his older siblings and their friends were rocking to go out and to school.
Of course, turning a hobby into a business is never easy, and a lot of hard work and sacrifices went into opening Piff. Billy explains, “It was a very natural process but took a lot of hard work and dedication so I would never say it just sort of happened. However, I knew quickly after getting started that it was a perfect fit for me and what I wanted to do no matter what it took.“
As with any business, owners need to weather the storm and will face many challenges and issues along the way. 2020 was a year no one was prepared with the corona virus outbreak as well as the civil unrest from the death of George Floyd (RIP) while in custody by Minneapolis Police. With that happening literally in mine and Billy’s backyards, it was a relief to see Piff reopen its doors back in August and continue to ride the wave that is 2020 into the next year.
Of course, there’s been a lot of changes in the culture too and a lot of this is rather new to me as I am very new to this world, so hearing Billy’s take on it was super interesting to me. I’ll let Billy tell it in his own words rather than paraphrasing it:
What was the scene like when you got into it compared to now?
Very different. There are definitely pros and cons to the changes and it has been quite interesting to see it evolve. Prior to social media and online selling platforms, the shoe game was much more of a word of mouth and underground community. Being able to score a pair of shoes depended much more on connections with others and being able to source the pair(s) you wanted. Nowadays one can simply google and purchase just about any pair they want depending on there budget.
The sneaker and streetwear community in Minneapolis has come a long way since our doors opened in 2014. There are now several more shops and people of all ages taking interest in sneakers and street wear. Minneapolis definitely has an underrated scene filled with great collectors, sellers and talented individuals. While it’s tough to compare to cities such as New York and Los Angeles, we love traveling, being inspired and bringing the freshest brands to the Twin Cities.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this feature as much as I did putting it together. I’ve been pretty enthusiastic about the sneaker culture since getting into it, and finding a scene like this locally to me is something I find pretty cool. Just like cars, it takes all kinds.
As for Billy, hopefully this falls into another great memory for the store as he told me that there hasn’t been a single great moment or memory since opening Piff, rather a collection of many great moments and memories. If you’d like to follow Piff and/or Billy, you can find their IGs at: @piffmpls / @o.g._rob, online at piffmpls.com, or if you’re local stop in and visit at 1506 Como Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.
See you next time!