Very rarely does someone go to the mall expecting to hear live reggae music. However, Vince Peña of Cali Vibes Clothing hopes to change that for anyone who comes shopping at the Puente Hills Mall.
Located in the City of Industry, Peña opened Support Local Reggae back in mid-November as both an outlet for his Cali Vibes Clothing brand and a place for reggae-influenced musicians from all over Southern California to showcase their talents. The location features live, in-store, acoustic sets every weekend and is currently booked through December.
Peña looked at mall spaces in Glendale and Eagle Rock before finally settling on Puente Hills. He describes the location as “my hometown mall during my teenage years.” The mall has given him a three-month trial lease to test out his store concept. “Before signing the lease, I made sure that they were willing to comply with my ideas and plans of bringing live music into the store.”
Support Local Reggae held its grand opening celebration on Saturday, November 15, with a live in-store performance featuring rising L.A. musicians, Ital Vibes and Preston Lee of Ezzrah. Also in attendance were a mix of local artists, managers, promoters, supporters, friends and family of all ages. Members of fellow L.A.-based band, Iya Terra, were also present and showed no hesitation when asked to play a few acoustic versions of their songs.
The store has continued to bring in impressive acts each week since the grand opening, including performances by East L.A.’s Arise Roots, Santa Ana's Johnny Love, Skunkdub from Riverside, La Habra's Nick Papa of Solution, San Pedro’s Spliff Vision, Pacific Noize from Cerritos, as well as a collaboration between South Bay LA natives, Rico Estrada of Ease Up and Moi Juarez of Life (formerly of Tomorrows Bad Seeds).
“I didn’t want to be just a clothing line. My life revolves around music, so it is very important that I work hard to continue to have that with me,” Peña explains. “I know that the live music will attract people into the store and at the same time, it’s great exposure for the bands and all those involved.”
Peña started designing T-shirts for his own basketball league (B.O.L.A.) in 2011 before making the first Cali Vibes print as a Christmas gift for his family and friends the following year. Since officially launching in May of 2013, the brand’s “Support Local Reggae” design has become extremely popular at concerts and festivals all over Southern California.
Prior to the store's opening, Peña had found a regular home base for Cali Vibes every Wednesday night at the legendary Dub Club in Echo Park, thanks to the support of the event’s founder, Tom Chasteen.
From the moment you walk in the door at Support Local Reggae you are greeted by the welcoming sound of reggae music, a relaxed atmosphere, and a beautiful wall of Rasta colors that grabs your attention immediately. “Since the word ‘Rasta’ in my knowledge means to not discriminate against anything, especially when it comes to differences, it's a good way of saying that the store is diverse and everyone is welcome,” Peña explains.
Although Support Local Reggae’s trial lease expires at the end of January, Peña isn’t worried about the looming deadline and has hopes of keeping the store open for longer. “I consider this three-month trial as the most effective way of learning how to run a business,” he says. “I never went to any college or took any business management classes, but if you compare everything I’m learning and gaining through these everyday experiences, I think it’s a lot faster and cheaper than going to school.”
Even if his retail experiment turns out to be short-lived, Peña has no intention of giving up on his brand. “Cali Vibes Clothing and the ‘Support Local Reggae’ shirt will be around as long as there's music and reggae in general. Even if we don't keep the store, it will be just another addition to the brand's resume. Regardless, I will continue to do my best to provide and create more jobs for others while I continue to spread more peace, unity and positive vibes through my art and designs.”
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Support Local Reggae is located at the Puente Hills Mall, 1600 S. Azusa Ave., City of Industry. For hours and more information, visit www.supportlocalreggae.com.