On March 16, 1966, at 704 E. Broadway, in Anaheim, California, brothers Paul Van Doren, James Van Doren, Gordon Lee and two other partners opened up the first Vans store. The Van Doren Rubber Company manufactured shoes and sold them directly to the public. On that first morning, twelve customers purchased Vans deck shoes, which are now known as "Authentic". Vans displayed three styles of shoes, which were priced between $2.49 and $4.99, but on the day the store opened for business, the company had only made display models actually manufactured, but no inventory ready to sell. The store rack boxes were actually empty. Nevertheless, these 12 customers came into the store and selected the colors and styles they desired.
The customers were asked to come back later in the afternoon. In the meantime, Van Doren and Lee rushed to the factory to manufacture the selected shoes. When the customers returned that afternoon to pick up their shoes, Van Doren and Lee realized that they had forgotten to have cash available to make change. The customers were given the shoes anyways and asked to return the following day to pay for them. Each of the 12 customers did return the next day to make the payments. The company continued to grow into the 1970s. During this period they also produced wool lined canvas and rubber mukluks under contract to the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Air Force.
Skateboarders who liked Vans' rugged make-up and sticky sole were seen wearing Vans all over Southern California in the early 1970s. In 1975, the Vans "#95", known today as the "Era", was designed by Tony Alva and Stacy Peralta. With a padded collar and different color combinations, the Era became the shoe of choice for a generation of skateboarders due to the non-slip bottom being more conducive for a better grip. In 1976, Vans introduced the "#44" shoe, and with the help of skateboarders and BMX riders the Vans "Slip-On" became all the rage in Southern California. By the end of the 1970s, Vans had seventy stores in California, US, and sold through dealers, both nationally and internationally.