Establishing Something Out of Nothing
Let's get something strait on the frontside – We didn't know what we were doing when we started and we still don't know what we are doing now.
Now that’s out of the way – here we go, our very first blog post. We have no clue “how to write a blog post” nor are we interested in doing it right – that's pretty much how this thing will be going forward – bad grammar, misspelled words and likely some hood talk etc. This is us expressing our own voice.
Picture the setting here – a guy has resorted to living out of his Mitsubishi with just a driver's seat and a load of tees that shape the walls of his transient home. This Mitsubishi has seen plenty of parking lots that dubbed as home base overnight along the way – to where is always its own mystery. He's been hocking his tees – all are relatively unproven to the world. The adrenaline to go forward is nothing more than ignorant determination mixed with an un-guaranteed “too stupid to quit” mentality.
Looking back – none of this really makes sense. This was before cell phones, google maps and apps that do everything but wipe your butt. The journey was about drawing lines on a large map that led a dreamer from JXN, MS to Dallas to Miami hugging the 95 to NYC and then blasting across the middle of the country to the Midwest and back – this happened several times. The point here was to find the bigger cities – find the downtown – spot the local coffee shops and strike up conversations with any of the locals who might appear weird who would then lead you to the cool hip indie stores. A sale there would get me to the next city. There were many days of 12 hours+ driving that yielded nothing, but stopping never really made sense because you had to earn your way home. What a punishing way to earn a career I guess, but it taught me to be a survivor versus the easy option of quitting – as the entitled so beautifully own.
Let's fast forward to a day on February 17th, 1998 when I rolled through JXN, MS to an unassuming neighborhood blended of status-y, republican smelling folk on one hand and a melting pot of blended cultures, flavors and backgrounds on the other. At the time, I was not even living here as I claimed friends couches in Pensacola as quasi-home. I was basically on one of my last stops when I was getting coffee at yet another local coffee shop I had never been to. I saw a hippie store next door and figured why not give it a shot to sell to them. Upon turning a tee shirt trick, the owner of this hippie store (Shakedown) went on to tell me that I should move next door because the Chinese restaurant had just gone belly-up. “Dumb enough to be dangerous” took a swat at it and did a 30 day renovation with a small pocket of cash earned on the road and really not much realistic understanding of the future.
On March 17th 1998 – the beginnings of a monster would start. Studio Chane (screen print) paired with Backstreet Skate Shop to open our doors for the first time and start something new. Backstreet was a shop dubbed in since I could not afford rent on my own. I had met Chris W in the parking lot at one of my Cheap Motel sales at the Sun & Sand while he was bootlegging off of my traffic as I was selling tees at my DJ party / tee shirt sales events. Anyway, tees got printed and skateboards got sold. Skipping a few basic details to the story, the Backstreet idea did not pan out due to conflicts between the 2 parties. A short time later, Swell Skate Company was born and expanded into the very shop next door that had encouraged us to open up. From this point forward, the Swell concept would flirt with quite a few markets from hippie to BMX to DJ records and equipment, to second-hand retro clothing (we bought out RetroActive that was across the street) to a crazy idea of a femme boutique – This was the beginning of Soma, but that's another blog to come. 6 expansions, moves and locations later SWELL-O-PHONIC was born. We had changed the name from Swell due to there being a set of Swell stores in Arizona who seemed to carry a few of the same lines and we kept getting their bills an collection notices. We knew we wanted to keep a similar name but make it a word that never existed to shape the persona. SWELL-O-PHONIC simply means - “it sounds swell.”