Salvador Villicana stands in front of a soccer shoe rack in the store. Photo by Chuqin Jiang.

Salvador Villicana was watching his favorite soccer team, Real Madrid, on the TV inside the Elite Sports Store on a recent Tuesday afternoon, but when the bell rang indicating a new customer, he reverted to salesperson mode.

Customers come in wanting kids’ soccer shoes, uniforms for the whole club, or the jerseys of a popular team. Most times, he said, he can tell if a sale is likely.

“It’s always best to give them a few options,” said Villicana, who has been working at the store at 2637 Mission St. for a year. As a Mission resident since the age of 6 and a high school soccer player, he’s been aware of the store for years.

His friends liked it because of the relaxed shopping experience. They could come and try on different shoes without having to wait for online orders to be delivered.

His history with soccer helps.

“Since you already played soccer before, you know how soccer shoes feel,” said the 28-year-old.

He expects the store to get busy over the next month as high school soccer gears up and World Cup begins next month. “We so,ld out Club América jersey completely because of the recent games,” he said. “So I could just imagine what it’s going to be in the World Cup.”

Before working at Elite, Villicana was in the men’s shoe department of Macy’s before starting at Elite Sports. There he worked on a team of 30 people. At Elite there are four employees. “Here, you get to know the other person a lot better.” Said Villicana, “And we got customers who have been shopping for 10 or 15 years.”

Some people prefer flashy shoes, while others prefer classic, economic ones. Villicana keeps track of different brands, new shoe model releases, and design and color updates.

“It’s an awesome thing,” he said referring to his job. “You can learn how to talk to people better, and learn the product better also. We have to get what they want and get them out of the door as fast as we can.”

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INTERN DATA REPORTER. Chuqin has two degrees in data journalism and she is passionate about making data more accessible to readers. Before arriving in the Mission, she covered small business and migratory birds in New York City while learning to code and design at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism. She loves coastal cities, including SF and her hometown Ningbo.

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