Store: Behind the Post Office
City: San Diego
Founder: Micheal Pringle
Year opened: 1991; Year closed: 1997
In 1991, Micheal Pringle, 22, discovered an abandoned ground-floor, all-brick building in downtown San Diego. At the time, the area surrounding that building on 801 F Street was so desolate that the 1,800-square-foot space Pringle found was actually being used by crack dealers. But what Pringle saw was a great business opportunity in a city that coincidentally became ground zero for the burgeoning underground streetwear scene.
In 1981, San Diego became home to the Action Sports Retailer (ASR) trade show, a twice-annual event where surf and skate brands like Vans and Quiksilver set up booths to sell products to store buyers. But by the early ’90s, young entrepreneurs like Pringle began penetrating the show with hip hop- and street-inspired clothing brands. At a 1991 ASR show, Pringle racked up $150,000 in orders for his clothing brand Stoopid. With that money, he signed a 10-year lease on that space he came across and named it after its location, “Behind the Post Office.”
Behind the Post Office became a popular destination for the city’s local hip hop community—Bay Area legend Del the Funky Homosapien even performed there. Because of its success, after a year, it expanded to San Francisco, with a location on Haight Street. Both stores were stocked with brands like Fuct, Pervert, Fresh Jive, Tribal Gear, Conart, and Triple 5 Soul that struggled to fit in at ASR, since it wasn't welcoming to younger lines with hip hop influences. So Pringle decided to launch his own trade show, 432F, which he ran in tandem with Behind the Post Office from 1993-1995.
Although 432F only lasted a short time, it gave spaces to pioneering streetwear brands such as Not From Concentrate by Futura and Stash, Kingpin NYC by Bleu Valdemir, OBEY by Shepard Fairey, and Ecko by Marc Ecko. Before shows like Agenda, 432F was the first trade show truly dedicated to streetwear during the movement’s most formative years.
“It wasn't like anyone had any idea of what they were going to do,” says Scott Nelson, the founder of the streetwear brand MANKIND who also helped design Pervert’s booth at 432F with the brand’s founder Don Busweiller. “You found out about these things globally through word of mouth. When you got there, everyone was scrambling because people weren't making or designing booths ahead of time. They were getting there and ad-libbing.”
But after 1995, Pringle didn’t hold another 432F show because he felt it had run its course and he also lost interest in the streetwear business. Japanese buyers were visiting Behind the Post Office and cleaning out the store’s stock with $10,000 cash in hand, but it no longer interested Pringle. In 1997, he closed the San Diego store and moved to farmland in West Marin, California, where he still lives today.
“If it wasn't for that store, a lot of that culture probably wouldn't have happened,” says Grant Lau a professional artist who was formerly a graphic designer for Behind The Post Office. “We all had clothing brands making streetwear and we were all friends, so we all gathered together to try and do something.”—Lei Takanashi