Your New Streetwear Obsession, SPRMRKT, Might Be Next to the Salami
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Your New Streetwear Obsession, SPRMRKT, Might Be Next to the Salami

May 10, 2023

By Samuel Hine

On the unofficial first day of summer, the hottest spot on Shelter Island was the supermarket. Range Rovers and station wagons, freshly deposited from one of the two ferries that provide access to the Hamptons enclave, pulled into the parking lot of the local IGA at a steady clip. It was the Friday before Memorial Day, and the weekend crowd was stocking up for the first cookouts of the season.

Most shoppers, fresh in from Brooklyn and Manhattan, beelined straight to the produce and beer aisles. But some peeled off to browse the streetwear.

"Today is going to be crazy," said Anthony Peronace as he tidied up a rack of heavyweight, logo-covered sweatshirts. Peronace manages the IGA branch, owned by his parents, day in and day out. But he's also the founder and designer of SPRMRKT, a line of fashion merch that he's sold out of the grocery store since 2018. Behind him in his dedicated shop-in-shop, a refrigerator glowed next to a display of embroidered bucket hats and SPRMRKT-emblazoned tote bags. Inside the fridge? More hats, and graphic tees packaged like cuts of USDA prime steaks.

The SPRMRKT shop, in the supermarket

As the name suggests, the gear is, broadly, grocery themed. The SPRMRKT logo features a wire shopping cart, and certain details reveal an intimate familiarity with the grocer lifestyle, like a tote bag emblazoned with the PLU numbers for popular produce. Other pieces scratch the itch for Shelter Island merch that rises above the basic embroidered dad hats you can find next to the sunscreen at the local pharmacy. One of Peronace's most popular sweatshirts, for instance, features an undersea melange of dolphins and starfish.

There's also a smattering of offerings that, in contrast to the island's beachy environs, wouldn't look out of place in the clout corridors of Soho, like a black mockneck shirt with a futuristic logo, and an oversized hoodie with an artfully rendered alien head across the back. One rack looks like a yacht club swag department went a little nuts, the other looks more like Balenciaga, if Demna had grown up stocking shelves in small town Suffolk County.

Anthony Peronace

"Everyone who comes in has a different style than the next person," said Peronace of his fashion cornucopia. He wore an oversized hoodie and velvet sweatpants, a trucker cap pulled low over a mane of bleached hair. "I’m designing what I think they’ll want to leave with, even if they’re just coming in for groceries."

Even in this age of micromerch and niche streetwear, where any scene or fandom or lifestyle can be captured through easily-designed softgoods, SPRMRKT comes at fashion from a delightfully unexpected angle: what if SSENSE popped up inside your local grocery store? Peronace designs what he knows. A second generation grocer, he was practically raised in his parents’ IGA (Independent Grocers Alliance) franchise in Massapequa Park. (He says he knew how to chop meat before he could read or write.) It was never a question that Peronace would join the family business, but he was also obsessed with fashion. While other IGA employees wore polo shirts and aprons, Peronace, 29, would often show up in Balenciaga Triple-S sneakers. Though medium-box stores aren't typically rich wellsprings of fashion inspiration, he was captivated by the logos and typography across the great American grocery list. "You're sitting here opening boxes, you're looking at all these products, putting them on the shelf. My inspiration was mainly being into fashion, but that definitely played a role, too," he said.

Peronace officially launched the brand in 2018. After closing the store one night, he threw some graphic sweats on a rack and put it out among the shelves. "This used to be the pharmacy aisle," he said, surveying his compact domain. "I didn't even tell my parents I was doing it." A Drake-heavy playlist on his shop's miniature sound system stopped "Feel Like Makin’ Love" from wafting in from the rest of the aisles.

By Gerald Ortiz

By The Editors of GQ

By Gerald Ortiz

What SPRMRKT lacks in reach it makes up for in small town charm. It also has a captive audience of sorts. The IGA is the only grocery store on the island, one of the many features of Shelter Island's somewhat inconvenient and isolated lifestyle that engenders a sense of pride among its residents. Instacart has not yet arrived on that side of the ferry, and there is no Uber Eats. The IGA only recently opened four self-checkout lanes. As Peronace put it, waving at a regular as they walked in: "Everyone's got to come in to eat."

Still, back in 2018, nobody was as surprised as Peronace himself that his hyper-local label began flying into shopping carts. "I knew how much I loved everything," he said. "But seeing how everyone else reacted, at that moment I was like, This is it. That's sustained me the entire five years since I started it," even through the pandemic, when Peronace had to put SPRMRKT on the backburner to steer the IGA through runs on hand soap.

These days, you can spot SPRMRKT both at the island's greasy spoon diner frequented by "Hareleggers" (as born-and-raised Shelter Islanders are known) and at Andres Balasz's ritzy Sunset Beach hotel, where Peronace held a pop-up store in 2019. It is not lost on his customers that while other Hamptons destinations support plenty of merch, Shelter Island is the only town on the east end with a burgeoning fashion brand in its grocery store. "Whenever I schlep to the IGA on Shelter Island I check out Anthony's latest offerings," says the writer and former Barneys creative director Simon Doonan. "Having a nifty, happening boutique nestled between the toilet rolls and the salami is very hip, and reminds me of the Kings Road boutiques which sprang up spontaneously in my youth."

Peronace considers it one of his finest achievements that when he popped up at Sunset Beach, where guests often arrive by yacht or seaplane, curious customers from the hotel ended up finding him at the IGA. "They were amazed by everything," Peronace said. "They couldn't believe that it was here." Peronace recalled that they asked him how many stores he was in. "It's just here," he replied. As his first customer of the afternoon pushed a cart into the SPRMRKT shop, Peronace said that he's getting more ambitious with product drops, introducing a line of stylized sports jerseys and cooking up some collaborations. But he's in no rush to expand out of his aisle. "I want to keep it in the supermarket," he said. "People have to come experience it themselves."