By Jessica Acosta/El Inde
Fourth Avenue is an eccentric and iconic street in the heart of Tucson. Right in the middle of the strip is a vintage lover’s dream.
Robert Hall, better known as Slobby Robby, opened his vintage store Generation Cool on Fourth Avenue in 2013.
The store specializes in iconic and pop culture pieces from the ’80s and ’90s. According to Hall, his merchandise ranges from toys to jerseys and hats to band tees and rap tees to all kinds of collectibles all the way to vintage luxury goods and everything in between. During the interview, Hall sits on a vintage Michael Cromer München leather chair in front of a box of old Nike sneakers.
Hall, also known as Slobby Robby, is a Tucson native who is covered in tattoos, usually wearing loud, colorful, designer print clothing with a large pair of glasses to match, topped off with dozens of chains, rings and jewelry.
He describes his signature style, which mixes with the shop’s signature style, as “really over the top, kinda gaudy stuff.”
His nickname, Slobby Robby, was actually given to him by a fan who wrote a poem for him on MySpace back in the day. “It’s like, ‘Slobby Robby he’s my favorite hobby, if I was a hotel, he could live in my lobby,” Hall says with his infectious laughter.
His large following on social media has led to success for him and the store.
Owning a clothing store has been a longtime dream of Hall’s, who has been fascinated with “the art of retail,” he calls it, from a young age, starting with his childhood obsession with toys.
“It kind of hit me all at once in a eureka moment,” he says. He thought: Why not make this into something that represents him and his life and also turn into a business?
These days, Slobby Robby is more than just a local Tucson celebrity. Hall has been featured on Pawn Stars, NBC First Look, and has a popular reality show on Netflix called “Slobby’s World.”
With the exposure from the reality show, along with its large social media following, Generation Cool has gained attention from people everywhere. Hall says the store has evolved into not only a tourist destination and a shopping destination, but a social media and “cultural experience in itself.”
It’s what brought Tommy DeVille, who is a graphic designer with a clothing brand of his own, out to Tucson from Kansas City, Missouri. DeVille visited the store some years ago and now he’s the store manager.
“I found it on Instagram, just had a feeling he was doing something big. So we came out, Rob showed us around Tucson, and from there he was a big homie and I just learned more about vintage,” DeVille says.
DeVille’s background in fashion and graphic design made him qualified for the position as store manager of Generation Cool, but what really sold him was something else.
“I’m a nerd, so I love the toys. The toys (are) really what got me. The old toys that I grew up with, and then the clothes kinda followed suit with that,” DeVille says.
DeVille’s position puts him in charge of the Instagram posts and stories for the store every day, as well as the business side of the store. Which includes dealing with any media requests and managing the other employees. An average day at Generation Cool isn’t like a lot of other retail jobs.
DeVille is most fond of a couple of regular fixtures at Generation Cool: Billy and his dog Lucy.
“We have a guy, Billy, and his dog Lucy, that get money on the street around here. He’ll come in and play the little video game,” says DeVille. “So we have our regulars that are just chillin’, as well as regular customers.”
Generation Cool gets anywhere from one to one hundred new pieces everyday to showcase in the store and on social media. At first, Hall says they weren’t as picky with their pieces, but they have narrowed in on the vision of Generation Cool.
“We only buy ’80s and ’90s vintage pieces. Top shelf, iconic stuff, bright colorful stuff that suits our style, suits my style. We know what we do, we know what the consumer looks for from us and we stick to it,” Hall says.
Slobby Robby has big plans for Generation Cool’s future, as the popularity of vintage clothing continues to rise.
Slobby Robby and Generation Cool recently opened a store in Las Vegas and plan to have another store selling vintage sneakers soon, right next door to their Tucson location.