Best Shoe Store: Sneakers elevated to an art form
In the small space that used to be Funky Riddems Records, the funk still resides in funky shoes. Not rotten funky, but funky meaning fresh. Fresh is more than another hipster sneaker boutique. Co-owners Calvin Lau and Brandon Fong have an understanding of sneaker culture and have created an East Bay aesthetic that combines disparate elements to define an Afro-surrealist chic. Shoes from labels such as Stabs, Greedy Genius, Artful Dodger, the Year of the False, and Addict exclusive products, some hand-printed, some limited-run, but all unique to Fresh and a handful of outlets worldwide are displayed like art installations, bathed in light on hardwood shelves. The stereo plays old-school hip-hop, a miniature rock garden sits next to the cash register, and there's an inviting old quarter-operated Street Fighter II videogame, upon which a representative of the Express has schooled the owners again and again. They may have the fresh kicks, but they can't stop our Ryu roundhouse.